Monday, 19 February 2018

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: A WINTER'S TALE

Reader Blue shares a spine-chilling winter story with a twist... this one is NOT to be missed!

As snowflakes landed on her cheeks, Elspeth's eyelids fluttered open. What was she doing here, lying on her back in the snow? She'd catch her death of cold! Elspeth didn't know where she was but she spotted a road not too far in the distance, a dark grey ribbon that twisted and turned as it disappeared over the horizon, promising to show her the way home. She stumbled towards it. Although she wasn't sure how she'd ended up asleep in the snow and didn't remember leaving her home, she had some theories. She'd been so stressed lately, trying to juggle uni coursework with a retail job. She'd probably come out for a walk and fallen asleep from exhaustion. How embarrassing! She hoped her family wouldn't ask what she'd been up to because she didn't think 'Napping in the snow, y'know, the usual,' would go down very well.

As it turned, Elspeth's home wasn't too far and after twenty minutes of sticking to the side of the road, she'd reached her house on the outskirts of town. The back door was ajar, the smell of cinnamon and apple drifted out. Elspeth slipped in... and came face to face with her father.

'Oh! Hey Dad... I just went for a walk,' Elspeth explained.

He didn't react, he walked past her and slumped at the kitchen table with a grunt, staring listlessly at the newspaper he held in his hands before setting it on the table. He'd always been a man of few words but that seemed rude.

Perhaps he was tired, he looked like he hadn't slept in days and his crumpled clothes hung off him. Too many late nights at the office, probably. Her mother hadn't even glanced up from where she stood at the hob, stewing apple and cinnamon, probably for one of her delicious homemade apple pies. Elspeth hoped she could have an extra big portion, all that sleeping in the snow had left her feeling distinctly washed out. Being ignored by her parents wasn't helping. Perhaps they were mad at her for being out for so long - Elspeth wasn't sure how long she'd been asleep but it must have been a while to merit the silent treatment.

The door from the hall creaked open and five year old Joe stood in the doorway. His eyes met Elspeth's and she grinned at him. 'Hey Joey!' she said to her little brother.

'Elspeth?' he whispered. Then 'Elspeth!' as he scurried across the room, arms outstretched as their parents heads swivelled round at the sound of his voice. Elspeth held out her arms to catch him in a hug. The last thing she was expecting was for him to go THROUGH her. He fell to his hands and knees, tears dropping from his eyes onto the terracotta tiles.

She reached out to comfort Joe but her hand went through his shoulder. Their mum scooped Joe up and he sobbed into her shoulder. 'She was here! I saw her! I did!' he cried.

There was a lengthy silence. Their father spoke first. 'You're tired Joey. I think you'd better have a nap. Mummy will tuck you in and read you a nice story and when you wake up, we'll have some apple pie with ice cream, OK?'

Joe wiped his nose on his sleeve. 'OK' he mumbled. His mother carried him out of the room. As soon as the door closed behind them, Elspeth saw her father's face crumple and tears spilled from his eyes. His shoulders shook with sobs. Elspeth had never seen her father cry before, not even when he broke his toe playing football.

Instinctively, she reached out to him - and froze. Her hand was translucent, bordering on transparent. She was fading away before her eyes. This was not good! What was happening? How could she stop it? She could feel panic rising in her chest and she gripped the edge of the kitchen table to steady herself and tried to focus. Her eyes rested on the newspaper lying open where her dad had left it. She smoothed out the page and read it, not bothering to move her hand as it was now completely transparent. The paper was open on the obituaries page. That was when Elspeth saw it, crammed amongst the now-departed ninety year olds. Her name.

"WINTER, ELSPETH: 1998 - 2018. Dearly beloved daughter of Stuart and Margaret Winter, cherished big sister to Joseph Winter. Funeral is at 9:30am, Wednesday 30th January at St Peter's Crematorium. All welcome but family flowers only please."

How... how was this possible?! She tried to scream but no noise came out. She tried to cry but her tear ducts were out of use. All Elspeth could do was stand frozen, hunched over her own obituary as she vanished for the last time.

Cathy says:
WOW... eerie and beautifully written! Thanks for sharing, Blue! If YOU love to write, why not give a 'like' to the CC Facebook Fan Page and join in with the regular story challenges? And feel free to COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 18 February 2018

HANNAH: MAKING FRIENDS WITH ME

Reader Hannah shares how she summoned strength at a time when she was feeling lost, isolated and alone. Read on and be inspired!

Hannah says:
Just six years ago I was painfully shy and very unhappy at school. I had zero confidence and a group of girls picked on me on a daily basis, which made my self-esteem drop lower still. I got to the point where I didn’t want to go into school. I was miserable, and lost, and I had no clue what to do about it.

Fast forward to now. I am nineteen years old and in my first year of uni studying psychology, a subject I love. I have good friends, a lovely boyfriend and big hopes and dreams for the future. What changed? I did. I decided that I was sick of being everybody’s target, the one everyone picked on. I asked one of the bullies why she was doing it, and she told me I was ‘just too easy to pick on.’ I was a loser, she said. I looked in the mirror and I didn’t see a loser but I did see a very unhappy girl, with greasy hair and bad posture, unable to stand tall and look people in the eye because I was so sure they’d hate me. I wanted to disappear, and I hated myself, and it was obvious to everyone I knew.

I asked my older sister for help. She had always teased me too, but when she saw how unhappy I was she stopped being mean and became my biggest supporter. Her advice made me angry at first. She helped me to find a shampoo that was right for my hair, came with me to get a more flattering haircut, helped me choose cooler clothes. But the biggest difference was she helped me to see that I could be less hard on myself, and that actually I had to do that, because the self-hate was attracting all the nastiness that made school such a nightmare. It took a very long time to change this. Two years, maybe more. And I am still learning every day.

My sister told me she began every morning by looking in the mirror and telling herself the day ahead would be a good one. I realised I looked at myself and silently told myself how ugly I was, how scared I was of the day ahead. I tried to change it, because I thought it couldn’t do any harm, and very slowly I started to feel better. When my sister went back to college she started sending me uplifting cards and postcards which I put on my wall. I stopped comparing myself to others, stopped expecting the worst from every situation and started treating myself with less disgust. It became habit to eat well, exercise, take time to read and study, choose nice clothes and make sure I looked friendly.

I didn’t turn into one of the popular kids. I was still seen as geeky but I did begin to make friends, and the bullies stopped bugging me because I stopped reacting so much. I got really interested in the reasons why we treat others badly and how we can change things. It’s why I chose my uni course. I don’t think the thirteen year old me would recognise the person I am now, but that scared girl is a part of who I am... and always will be. I just learned that she was never my enemy, but someone I had to accept and make friends with. I still start the day with a positive message in the mirror, and I finish it by listing things I am grateful for in my diary. It has honestly changed my life.

Cathy says:
Wonderful words of wisdom, Hannah! Keep being strong! Do YOU have any tips on how to overcome bullying or low self-esteem? COMMENT BELOW to share with others.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

CHINESE NEW YEAR - YEAR OF THE DOG

Chinese New Year falls on the 18th of Feb, this year and we look at what 2018, the year of the Dog, might mean for you...

2018 is the Year of the Dog. In Chinese astrology, each year is related to an animal and an element, according to the 12-year lunar cycle. 2018 is an Earth Dog Year.

Legend has it that, back ancient China, the Jade Emperor declared that animals would become part of the new calendar - and that the 12 who arrived first would be selected. At the time, the cat and the rat were good friends. When they heard the news, the cat said to the rat, 'We should arrive early to sign up, but I usually get up late.' The rat then promised to wake his friend up so they could go together but, because he was so excited, he forgot and left on his own. He bumped into the dog, tiger, ox and other animals - who were all much faster than him - and he managed to convince the ox to carry him on his back. The ox arrived first, but the rat sneaked in front of him and became the first lucky animal. By the time the cat arrived, the selection was over - which is why the cat hates the rat and will always try to chase and kill him!

The global celebrations for Chinese New Year last for around two weeks and are an explosion of light and sound - involving bell ringing, lighting firecrackers, and traditional lion dances. Families gather for a reunion dinners and to clean their houses, sweeping away bad fortune. Traditionally, kids are given red envelopes stuffed with 'lucky money' and positive wishes on New Year's Day.

The year of the Earth Dog is promised to be a good year but also be an exhausting one! It is a good year to get your health in check, eating, exercising and getting rid of bad habits! As well as this, it promises good fortune, financially... sounds good to us! Enjoy Chinese New Year, whether you are a Dog or not!

Cathy says:
Do YOU celebrate Chinese New Year? If not, you can still have fun finding YOUR Chinese zodiac sign! What are YOUR traditions? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

ZOE: I CAN'T OPEN UP...

Reader ZOE shares a problem for CHERRY COSTELLO to shed some light on... do YOU agree with her advice?

Zoe says:
I feel so alone. I have been feeling for a while that I can’t open up to people and that nobody will understand me. It’s not that I’m going through anything major, I just find it hard to see how my feelings would be of interest to people. I’ve always been like this but recently I’ve had people comment on how I should speak to people more, since I’m always there for my friends. The only person I trust enough to speak to is my sister but she’s leaving home soon and wont be there for me in the same way.

Cherry says:
I’ve been there - it’s not nice feeling that no one is there for you, but let me tell you, they are. You sound like a caring person if you’re there for everyone else, but don’t use this to mask your own problems. It’s fairly common for your personality type to try to take on the troubles of everyone else as a way of ignoring their own. You could start by keeping a feelings journal, writing things down no matter how seemingly insignificant is a great way of getting things out in the open. It trivialises situations that may seem major in your head. This may be a step towards being able to be more open in general. All the same, it's worth remembering that not everyone wears their heart on their sleeve... it's OK not to over-share, if that's what feels right to you. It could be your instincts flagging up who you should and shouldn't trust! Don't let anyone make you feel inadequate just for being a private person - a true friend will understand and respect that.

Cathy says:
I was just like Zoe in school! It takes time to trust people and it's scary but opening up it can be a great way to sort out your worries, no matter how trivial. Have YOU had similar issues with sharing your feelings? If so COMMENT BELOW with tips...

Monday, 12 February 2018

EASY-PEASY LEMON-SQUEEZY PANCAKE RECIPE!

Reader Mimi shares her tasty and incredibly easy recipe for pancake mix - no excuses now! 

Mimi says:
This recipe is super easy and super tasty!

TIME: 20 MINS
SERVES: 12

Ingredients:
100g plain flour
2 large eggs
300ml milk
1 tbsp sunflower/ vegetable oil
fresh lemon, to taste (optional)
caster sugar, to taste (optional)


Put the oil, flour, eggs, milk and a small pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk gently with a fork until nice and smooth. If you can, leave the mixture to rest for half an hour if not… get cracking!

Grab a medium sized frying pan and set it over a medium heat. Oil generously. When it’s heated up enough, drizzle your pancake mix into small circles in the centre of your pan. Cook your pancakes for one minute on each side until golden... turn gently using a spatula, or flip them if you're brave!

To serve, try squeezing a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of sugar - or, come up with your own yummy fillings! Sliced Banana? Nutella? Maple syrup? You decide!

Cathy says:
Yummy! Thanks Mimi! My favourite filling is sliced banana and a drizzle of honey. Do YOU have a fave filling? Let us know in the COMMENTS SECTION below...

Sunday, 11 February 2018

IS THIS A CRUSH?

Ahead of Valentine's Day, reader Imogen talks about how to spot a crush... and why it's not the same as real-life love...

Imogen says:
We've all been there. Totally in the thrall of that cool boy (or girl) we're actually too shy to even speak to... and kidding ourselves there'll be a happy-ever after. It can feel so overwhelming it takes over everything - when I had a crush on a boy from the Sixth Form when I was thirteen, I was obsessed. I made my friends hang out opposite the sixth form building every lunchtime in the hopes of catching a glimpse of him. I drew his name and mine inside a heart at the back of all my exercise books. I cried about him at night, and when he started going out with a girl his own age I hated her with such venom it made me sick and shaky for weeks. And then the feeling faded, as fast as it had arrived, and I had a new crush - a less dramatic one. When I was fifteen I started seeing a boy a year older than me, and suddenly real life relationships seemed more appealing than imaginary ones. So how do you know it's a crush?

- You dream about him all the time... but you've never actually spoken to him.
- He's a lot older than you, or unreachable in some other way... a teacher, a pop star, an actor.
- You know that NOBODY else in the world could ever understand you the way he does...
- ... even though you don't actually know what his personality is like.
- You practice writing your name with his surname in the back of your books.
- You plan your day around catching a glimpse of him.
- If he ever spoke to you, you'd panic so much you'd probably be speechless.
- Your friend threatens to tell him how you feel and you are horrified at the very idea.
- If he's a public figure, you collect as much info on him as you can.
- You are devastated if he gets a girlfriend.
- You happily turn down dates with real life boys because they're not HIM.

No matter how real the feelings may seem, they are a practice run for a real relationship and a part of growing up, so remember that and keep an eye on the bigger picture. In time, the fantasy love affair will fade, and you'll be ready for the real thing!

Illustration by Cathy Cassidy.

Cathy says:
Wise words from Imogen! Have YOU ever had a crush on someone who is way out of reach? COMMENT BELOW to share your story!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

VOTES FOR WOMEN!

Reader Callie shares her beautiful piece to mark 100 years of women first gaining the vote!

Callie says:
One hundred years ago, UK women couldn’t hold property the same as men. They couldn’t open a bank account. They couldn’t become an accountant or a lawyer or claim equal pay for doing the same work as men. They couldn’t sit in the House of Lords or obtain a fair court order against a violent husband, and had very few rights as we know them today. Most importantly, they couldn’t vote.

One hundred years ago, just after the end of WWI, change was ignited when an act was passed in parliament, allowing all married women over the age of thirty the right to vote. This monumental act was the start of basic change to social attitudes towards women. Although it was a milestone in women’s rights, it is important to realise that it was still another ten years before ALL women could vote and still today there is progress to be made, but it was a start!

History still largely views the suffrage movement  - those fighting to gain the right for women to vote - as radical. At the time, suffragettes were arrested and imprisoned, and when they went on hunger strike to draw attention to their cause, they were violently force-fed. I view their struggle as courageous and inspiring. Figures like Emily Davison, who gave up her life for the cause by throwing herself under the kings horse right up to today’s feminista heroes like Emma Watson and Malala Yousafzai; if we let these gals guide us, we will prevail. I also think it’s important not to exclude men in this fight. Even back during the suffrage movement of the early 19th century, there were male supporters.

There’s still a long way to go and we’re not there yet. Women are still not taken seriously in many lines of work, such as science and politics, but let’s keep pushing forwards. Spreading awareness, and being there for each other is key. Oh, and when the time comes, never forget to use your vote!

Cathy says:
Really important stuff, Callie, well said. We have to keep fighting, let's never let things slide. What are YOUR views? Leave a COMMENT BELOW and tell us how YOU feel!

Friday, 9 February 2018

CURL UP WITH A CLASSIC: ANNE OF GREEN GABLES

Reader Sophie reveals her thoughts on this timeless children's classic...take a peek!


Sophie says:
I love reading classic books but my absolute favourite has to be ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by Lucy Maud Montgomery (and all the others in the series). I have read it countless times and have collected a small selection of different editions with different covers of all the books in the series. I was most excited when I found an antique edition of Anne of the Island which I found in a charity shop and I am always looking out for more. I have also read a prequel to ANNE OF GREEN GABLES called 'BEFORE GREEN GABLES', written by Budge Wilson, which is her imagining of Anne's life before she got to Green Gables which was fascinating and just as good as the original books. I am now reading the journals of L.M. Montgomery which are just as heart-warming and relatable as her Anne books. I even dressed up as Anne on World Book Day one year! 

The lovely thing about Anne's books (and Montgomery's journals) is how similar life was for teenage girls back in the 19th Century than it is now! Usually, we think life must been very different and boring back then, but teenager issues seem to have always been the same, such as friendship troubles, boy worries, sleepovers still happened, which makes the book as accessible and relatable as ever. 

The first Anne book is about an elderly brother and sister who live at Green Gables, a small farm on Prince Edward Island in Canada. They want to adopt an orphan boy to help out on the farm as the man is getting older and not as strong. A terrible error occurs and they are sent a girl instead - Anne. Girls were generally not wanted for help 'in those days' and not thought of as being strong so they were dreadfully disappointed. Finally, they fall in love with Anne and decide to keep her anyway. Anne has a habit of falling into trouble when she doesn't intend to, which somehow makes us as readers love her even more and makes us giggle too. She has a wonderful outlook on life and makes us see the world through Anne's eyes too. I love her raw portrayal of friendship and happiness as well as pain and unhappiness. Whatever Anne feels, we feel it too.


When I first read the book, I found a friend in Anne. I related to her and felt like she said everything I think in my head but don't say! If I'm feeling sad, I know I can always open an Anne book and feel like I'm with a friend and have a chat with her and she will make me laugh and cheer me up.  I would recommend ANNE OF GREEN GABLES to anyone who has enjoyed current children's or YA books and I would recommend Montgomery's other books including the EMILY OF NEW MOON series which are beautiful books too.

Cathy says: 
What a lovely write-up from Sophie! I LOVED reading about Anne's adventures when I was growing up. Have you read and connected to ANNE OF GREEN GABLES? COMMENT BELOW and tell us what you think!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

CARMEL: THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING!

Reader Carmel tells us why she'd rather put on her walking boots than hit the gym any day... get out there and find an adventure!


Carmel says:
Our family are the outdoorsy type. This means my childhood was spent getting soaked to the skin in dinghies bobbing about on stormy lakes, or cycling up and down muddy hills, or screaming my head off as I zoomed down yet another zip-wire from the treetops above. This made me quite tough and practical and not scared of a/ camping b/ rain c/ fixing a flat tyre on a bike, all of which I am very happy about.

When I got older though, I realised that most of my friends had different ideas. They preferred the shopping mall to kayaking and abseiling. I tried to show some enthusiasm, but it wasn't really me, and camping and sailing was not for my friends either. Problem. What to do? I started with my two best friends, suggesting country walks with a picnic along the way. They weren't keen, but I chose easy routes and packed doughnuts, and after a couple of tries they were hooked. 'When are we going on our next adventure?' they ask now. I have a boyfriend now and he is just as keen on walking and outdoorsy stuff as I am. We really do have some cool adventures together.

So that's the thing - most of us live in cities, surrounded by buildings and factories and cars. The closest we get to nature is sometimes a picture of a sunrise over the water on Instagram. The closest we get to smelling a flower is when someone squirts air freshener around in the bathroom. That's a shame, because human beings are meant to live alongside nature. It makes us happy. The fresh air, the vitamin D, the exercise that gets our hearts pumping and keeps our muscles strong... all of those things make us healthy and happy. But most of all, it's seeing the wonders of nature, marvelling at a snowy hillside, crossing a stream on stepping stones, looking at lambs in the fields. It's about finding the next adventure, having fun without screens or shopping bags.  Those boots are made for walking - get out there and explore!

Photographs by Marti Stelling - thanks Marti, they're just perfect!

Cathy says:
Love this... one of my resolutions for 2018 is to do more walking and get back to the countryside! Do YOU have a passion or a hobby that means the world to you? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 5 February 2018

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: THE SNOW KITTENS

Reader Katie has a brilliant snowy story for you... make yourself a hot chocolate, curl up and read!

'Why is it that when I see snow I always think of Frozen?'

I wipe the snowflakes off my eyelashes. It is positively Frozen.

My younger sister laughs and says, 'Because we watch it every Friday afternoon!'

I nod. 'Right' I say. 'When can I show you Spiderman again?'

My sister responds by throwing a snowball at me. We laugh and walk further through the thickening snow.

'Wait, STOP!' I scream, throwing my hands up in shock. My sister was about to back into a soft pile of snow, stained with something bright red.

'It’s blood, isn’t it?' my sister looks round, suddenly concern is etched on her face. I nod, gesturing that she should move away. I kneel against the pile of snow, and lean over. Six kittens mew up at me. The trail of blood trickles off into the distance.

'Oh!' my younger sister cries. Hurriedly, we begin stuffing the bloodstained kittens into the pockets and hoods of our coats, nestling them in our beanies and scarves. We waddle as quickly as we can while trying not to disturb the kittens. Safely home, with no sign of their mother, we clean them gently and feed them milk. They are named for the location at which they were probably born, and where we found them. Flake, Blizzard, Crush, Icy and Snowball blink up at me. There is just one kitten left to name. I sit back on my heels and think.

'Ruby' I turn to my sister, knowing we will never forget the blood-stained snow.

Cathy says:
Oooh... I want to know more! How did they end up there? Why? Fab stuff, Katie! If YOU love to write, why not give a 'like' to the CC Facebook Fan Page and join in with the regular story challenges? And feel free to COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 4 February 2018

VICKY: THE SADDEST SUMMER

Reader Vicky describes a trust broken and a summer crush that ended on a sad, sour note... 

Vicky says:
I went to summer camp last August and met my senior mentor on the first day. I didn't think much of him at first, but after a few days of doing trust activities and talking, I realised I had feelings for him. It wasn't anything major - I knew that because I'd only just met him and there was so much I didn't know about him. All the same, I told my new friends how I felt. Maybe because we'd talked so much about trust on the programme, I thought I could trust them with the secret, but almost at once they began to tease me about it. By the second week they started acting funny whenever I mentioned him - they kept telling me to let it go or focus on someone closer to my own age, and not a nineteen year old guy. Being naive, I carried on spinning daydreams about him, knowing I was way too shy to make any moves.

On the last day I was at camp, he withdrew a promise he had made at the start of the programme. We all had him on Snapchat - he said he would give us his number so he could send us information if any of us wanted to try out for being a senior mentor in future. He suddenly changed his mind and when I asked about this he acted like there was a different reason that I wanted his number.

A few days after the programme finished, my friends were talking about his snaps but I couldn't see them. I checked his contact on my phone and saw that he had blocked me. When I told me friends they told me something they should have told me from the start - he knew all along that I had a crush on him and he'd been telling them the whole time that I was acting creepy and being clingy. Needless to say, I was horribly embarrassed about it all. For a long time I tuned out everything to do with that summer camp, because I didn't want to think about how silly I'd been, trusting people I'd barely met with such a big secret. Trusting people to be true to me. On graduation day, I refused to even look at him, and I think it was clear I wanted nothing to do with him ever again.

Cathy says:
Trust is such an important thing for any friendship, and Vicky put her faith in new friends who quickly let her down - her mentor did not handle the situation well either, so no wonder she feels upset and hurt by what happened. Have YOU ever had your trust broken by those you thought were friends? Or found a teacher or mentor has let you down? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

YOUR STARS FOR FEBRUARY

Skye Tanberry reads your stars for the coming month... is love in the air, this Valentines? Read on to find out!

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
It’s easy to take for granted the small things in life, but often it’s where true happiness lies; going for hot chocolate with a friend, singing in the shower, you name it! February holds new and exciting opportunities but make sure you leave time for the small pleasures!

PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
The sun may be hiding away this month but there is plenty of shine in your smile to go around! You’re often used to being ‘The Shy One’ but why not reach out to someone unexpected? Make a new friend? Who knows what adventures are in store!

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20
A new moon, a new project? Creative, inventive and expressive you are always on the lookout for something new to get your hands on. Take inspiration from the moon... and paint your feelings like stars in the sky!

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
Run wild! Sing with the wind! Dance your way through those winter blues! Be at one with nature, notice sounds around you that you otherwise wouldn’t. It’s easy to be distracted with day-to-day life but there are so many little things that can give you a boost when you need it most.

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
Looove is in the air, but not in the way you’d expect! Instead of romance this month, you may find you discover a hidden hobby. Explore your creative side! There’s something just waiting for you to fall in love with!

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
You are sensitive, thoughtful and romantic…well, it’s really your month, isn’t it? You care very deeply about things which often makes you very shy. Why not take a risk? Send that Valentines card you’re always too shy to send? If that’s not your style, there are no rules against treating yourself to a Valentine day out with friends!

LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
Oooh! An exciting month for you! Your energies are focussed on achievement and success, there is no stopping you! Just remember to think of others along the way... maybe you can help them to achieve their own dreams!

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
It’s ok to fail. Even adults fail, and they’re supposed to know what they’re doing! The important thing is to learn from your mistakes, but most importantly of all, forgive yourself, and forgive others too. Things don't always run smoothly, but they'll work out in the end!

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
An unexpected journey is in store for you this month. Not necessarily a physical one... maybe an emotional one? Watch out for those around you who incite adventure and spontaneity. You’re not usually one to accept change, but maybe this could be a lesson?

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
Love interests lie ahead! Welcome or unwelcome, there is a secret admirer heading your way this month. It may not be what you had planned - but even so, it may blossom into something you never expected! Keep an open mind and see what unfolds.

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
The natural-born traveller in you is itching for adventure! You love to discover new things and new places, so why not plan a trip with your friends or family? Winter beaches are always magical… wrap up warm and let your love for life shine!

CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
Patient, practical and determined... you like to get things done. People can sometimes read you as stubborn but they don’t know your humble, caring heart. Try letting your soft side shine through, you may find you connect more with people. It's OK to show your true self!

Cathy says:
Very exciting things in store this month by the looks of it! Do Skye's predictions ring true for YOU? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!

Friday, 2 February 2018

HOLLIE: ROOM TO DREAM!

Reader Hollie tells us about her hideaway... a perfect place to chill and dream!

Hollie says:
I have the smallest room in the house (it’s even smaller than the bathroom!) Being the second child, my sister was automatically assigned the large room with three windows looking out onto the garden and I have the room that London buses go past at 11.34 at night. But my room is my heaven. It’s small, but perfectly formed!

Because it’s so small we could afford to have Laura Ashley wallpaper and wooden flooring put through it, but, to be fair, you can’t see a great deal of the wallpaper for all the pictures and paintings on the wall!

As you can see, I’m not a minimalist sort of person; I don’t do classy wallpaper on a feature wall and clean white furniture and a pot plant. I have Ikea furniture up to the ceiling on one wall (God bless Swedish Flatpacks) because of course you need somewhere to store the large amount of notebooks and socks I have acquired over the years. Any visible wall is full of photographs of the people I love, paintings my gorgeous friends have done for me, and a MASSIVE nail varnish station because I went through a phase when I was 14. It’s busy, and it’s quirky and it’s not for the claustrophobic. But it’s for me, and when I lie down with three sets of fairy lights a-glow at bedtime (I have to use a tower because I only have two plug sockets) then the world just seems warmer, and more Hollie-fied. And isn't that just what a bedroom should be?

Cathy says:
Lovely! Your room looks so cosy, Hollie! It's fab to have your own space, even if it's tiny... it gives you room to dream! Do YOU have a cool bedroom retreat? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

AMELIA: I THREW MY IPHONE AWAY

Reader Amelia writes candidly about why she was driven to throw her smartphone away... and what happened next...

Amelia says:
I got an iPhone on my thirteenth birthday - before that I'd had a cheaper version, which I'd had since I was ten. I saw having a phone as a right of passage and a sign of being grown up. Lots of my friends had them, almost all by the time I was thirteen. I didn't know a single person who didn't. It was the number one way of staying in touch for me and my friends. It sounds gross but I took it to the bathroom and everything, and checked messages two or three times a night. I was addicted, but I didn't worry about it because everyone else I knew was the same... it wasn't a problem, it was just the way things were.

I would never have questioned it at all if the bullying hadn't started. I posted a selfie one night - I got loads of likes on my Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter and then, on Twitter, some negative posts that told me I was ugly, stupid, shallow, vain. I didn't know the posters so I tried not to take it personally but who doesn't get upset when people label them that way? I got sucked into it. I posted more selfies, trying to look better, less shallow (I did pics of me with books, or doing stuff). My Instagram page began to turn nasty, people saying I was trying too hard, that I thought I was better than other people. I deleted the bad stuff. Twitter was worse. I didn't know what to do. The people posting the bad stuff weren't people I knew, but some people I knew did click like on comments that were critical and that hurt.

Suddenly, I felt paranoid, depressed, scared. I tried harder and harder to get people to like me online, and became a bit of a hermit in real life. The harder I tried the worse it got, and every time I checked my phone there'd be something horrible there. I became withdrawn and stopped trying at school, my friends commented and my parents were really worried. I couldn't tell anyone what was upsetting me and I couldn't delete the people who were commenting, I wanted to win them over even though it seemed impossible. We broke up from school and that was worse, I felt alone with it... a phone buzzing every few minutes telling me I was rubbish, and I had to hide the bullying from everyone. I got so low I started thinking about running away or evening ending it all, because I wanted it to stop, but I knew I didn't  have the guts.

One night I was looking at my iPhone in the bath and another horrible comment came up. I started to cry, and I let the phone slip through my fingers into the water. I scrabbled to get it back again but then I realised - why? Without the iPhone, the comments would stop. I dropped it back into the water and left it there, and after my bath I fished it out and stuffed it into the outside bin. I felt scared - what would happen to my Instagram account, my Twitter? I had three or four days of quiet, and it was amazing - I stopped worrying about what comments would come next, started to relax again, breathe again.

On the fourth day my friend K turned up at the house to see if I was OK, and I told her about the messages and what I'd done. She hadn't even realised. I told my mum I'd lost the phone and I didn't want to replace it, at least for a while, and I've gone through the last few weeks without it. I couldn't bear to be without my phone before, but now I see how addicted I was, how hooked on it. K and I have done more stuff in the last few weeks than we have in years. Gone to see plays and films in town, winter picnics in the park, swims at the leisure centre, joined a drama group. We meet up every day and do stuff with other friends, and K is using her phone less now. I don't feel left out, I feel relieved. Will I get another iPhone? I don't know. I feel so much better without it... I'm going to see how long I can last without.

Cathy says:
Amelia's post is really interesting - research has showed that too much screen time is really bad for our health. Could YOU go screen free? For an hour, a day, a week... or longer? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 29 January 2018

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: THE FOX

A gorgeous short story from our talented regular Blue... a wintry story with a twist!

I didn't dare breathe as I inched towards this strange but beautiful creature. I didn't want to frighten him. I'd heard they were jumpy creatures, prone to scampering off if we got too close. My family had warned me away too. 'Don't go near those nasty things,' they'd said 'They're vermin. Horrible creatures! They probably have all sorts of diseases!'

I wasn't so sure though. I wanted to listen to my parents, trust their advice... but this one seemed different. His eyes were anxious but bright as he sat in the snow, lost in thought, his nose was pointed and twitched occasionally (mine did too, someone nearby must have been cooking a roast dinner and it smelled heavenly). His fur was silky and speckled with snowflakes, ruffled by the slight wind. He didn't look diseased. He looked intriguing.

I wondered if I'd be able to touch him. I stepped closer and he noticed me, his wide eyes darting towards me. We froze simultaneously, stock still on the icy ground. I thought he might run away, but he didn't move. I didn't either. It felt like hours that we both stood there, staring at each other, waiting for one of us to make the first move.

He broke our game of statues, rising and venturing cautiously towards me. I flinched, my parents' words ringing in my ears. 'Vermin.' 'Horrible.' 'Diseases.' Yes, I thought he was cute but what if they were right, what if, despite his long dark fur and shining intelligent eyes, he was riddled with fleas, ticks, diseases, even something fatal? Part of me wanted to run back home and hide... but part of me was curious. I took a step forward.

The human produced a piece of gingerbread from his pocket and I wandered closer, sniffing cautiously. He smiled encouragingly and I closed the distance between us, my paws crunching on the ice hidden beneath the powdery snow. I twitched my whiskers back, out of the way, as I reached for the gingerbread in his outstretched hand. I tentatively took a bite. It was spicy and still warm. The human grinned and gently squatted down so we were at the same level. I reached for the rest of the gingerbread as he scratched my neck, the anxiety in his eyes fading.

'Good foxy' he murmured, his voice quiet and low. I liked this human. My parents said that humans were monsters, plagues who were ruining the earth and destroying our homes. But here in his garden, sharing gingerbread, calm together... I thought this one could be different.

I thought we could be friends.

Cathy says:
What a fantastic, unexpected twist! Brilliant stuff, Blue! If YOU love to write, why not give a 'like' to the CC Facebook Fan Page and join in with the regular story challenges? And feel free to COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 28 January 2018

TAYLOR: YOU'RE GOING TO DO AMAZING THINGS!

Reader Taylor has struggled with self-esteem issues, gender dysphoria and eating disorders - but a conversation with an understanding nurse has helped her to see things in a different way...

Taylor says:
I’ve got two separate eating disorders and also gender dysphoria, so it’s pretty safe to say that I definitely have self esteem issues. Until recently, I didn’t understand how someone could look down at their body and not want to cry, but things have begun to change for me and perhaps some of what has triggered that may help other readers too.

Five months ago, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, and I was discharged just under a week ago. For most of this time, I didn’t really make much progress self esteem wise. Then something happened that changed my life. Eight weeks ago, we got a new student nurse who was in her second year of uni. I’ll call her Lauren. To start with, I felt quite awkward around her, but after a couple of days, we talked more and then gradually got incredibly close. I learnt that I could trust her, and she started to trust me too. We talked a lot, I opened up to her properly about how I felt about myself. She broke down and cried during the conversation, and kept on hugging me - this was seen as unprofessional by other staff - how dare nurses have feelings! 


She kept on apologising, and I didn’t get why. She then told me this: 'I had this same conversation when I was a bit older than you, with one of my teachers. We’re not so different, actually.' Side note: this seriously shocked me, as Lauren seemed like the last person who would have self esteem issues. 'My teacher was not the sympathetic kind, I have no idea why I went to her,' Lauren continued. She wiped away tears and laughed a bit at this point. 'She didn’t really help me at all. You know what I found out on my own, though? Every human being is special. Everyone has potential. Look at you...' - meaning me - 'You’re young, you’re so young. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. Man, I know that I’m going to switch on the TV one day and see you in a movie, or on the music channel, or on stage...'


She actually thought I’d be good enough to become an actor/ musician - I’m still not sure what she was basing that on seeing as she’d never heard me sing but oh well! 'Even if you don’t go down that road,' Lauren went on, 'You’re still going to do amazing things, and how you look isn’t going to change that. How you look defines nothing other than what the mirror shows you.'


That was it. Life changed forever. After the conversation, I went and watched TV with the other patients. When I went back to my room that evening, the photos covering my mirror had been taken down, and I could see myself for the first time. Well, partially anyway. Lauren had written all over the edges of my mirror. She had put down loads of positive things that she thought about me, things like she liked my hair colour and my glasses suited me. Of course, that didn’t instantly solve everything. I had to (and still have to!) work so, so hard to get to where I am now, where I’m able to look into a mirror and not breakdown in tears, and sometimes actually like what I see! To some people this may not sound like much, but honestly, for someone who from the age of seven had cried almost every time there was a mirror, it’s a lot.


So, my advice to other people? Get yourself a Lauren. Or listen to her advice. YOU are capable of doing amazing things. YOU are capable of doing amazing things. How you look (or how you think you look) does not define you.

Cathy says:

Wow... such an honest post, and so simple and life-changing too. I think there is something we can all take from this, myself included! Have YOU got any tips on boosting self-esteem and confidence? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 27 January 2018

AVA: A PASSION FOR DANCE!

Reader Ava has a talent for dance - and the passion and determination to push it as far as it can go! Read her inspiring story!

Ava says:
I started dancing when I was five years old - I went to a local dance school not far from where I live and took lessons in ballet, jazz and tap. At the age of eight I decided I wanted to learn new styles of dance; I loved watching Dance Moms on TV and Maddie Ziegler was a huge idol of mine, someone I aspired to be like. I pestered my mum and she did a bit of research and found out about a dance school just a few miles away which offered more of a variety of dance styles. I went for a taster session in lyrical and was immediately hooked. I’m normally a quiet, shy girl, especially in new places, but I was so determined that I made the big decision to leave behind the comfort of my old dance school and start somewhere new. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

Since being at The Big Dance Company I have grown as as a dancer and performer and I feel I am at my most confident when I am dancing. 2017 was a fantastic year for me - I was among the 150 9-15 year olds that received a callback to  the CBBC dance show ‘Taking the Next Step’ and the only nine year old to audition in London. The junior company ‘Animate’ which I’m a member of at The Big Dance Company came first in every competition we entered, and in July I won a three year full dance scholarship.

All of this is very exciting but I know that winning isn’t actually what dance is about. Dancing for me is a feeling within me, I am a dancer above anything else. It’s about making others happy, about me being able to express my feelings and emotions and putting them into my dancing whether I’m happy, sad or angry - this is what makes me the dancer I am. A highlight of last year was taking part in a performance and dance workshop with the poorly children at Chelsea Children’s Hospital just before Christmas. To be able to put smiles on their faces and bring fun to their day was a great feeling!

I am now doing at least 12.5 hours of dance a week although at the moment it’s more like 15-16 hours a week because of extra training. There is always something we are in training for - my mum says she has crossed the whole of March out of her diary  as we have exams, our annual show, British hip hop Championships and then a group of us are going with our dance teacher and our mums to L.A. to attend a dance festival. We are going to be taught by some of the best choreographers and dancers in the world, and will be performing on a stage at Disneyland!

I’m always busy but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to be part of such an amazing dance school and in my opinion I have the most inspiring and supportive teachers on the planet. I’m living my dream but I wouldn’t be doing any of these things if I hadn’t believed in myself enough to make the leap. If quiet little me can do it, anyone with similar passion can too!

Cathy says: 
I LOVE this story! As Ava says, believing in yourself is key to making yourself happy - it's difficult sometimes, but never give up! Have YOU got your own story to share? COMMENT BELOW...

Friday, 26 January 2018

BEST & WORST THINGS...ABOUT JANUARY!

We asked what your best things about January were... and your worst! This is what you said - and what I said, too!

Cathy says:
I'll start! My best... wood fires, thick socks, frosty morning walks, soft scarves, fairy lights, books, hot chocolate, a sense of fresh starts. My worst... sleet, high winds, dark days, ice.

Helen says:
Getting up in the dark, going to school in the dark, coming out of school in the dark, going home in the dark... those are my worst things!  Roll on longer days and lighter mornings & evenings! Best things? Spotting early signs of Spring!Snowdrops and other bulbs coming up; robins beginning to sing to stake their claim in their territory!

Katie says:
Best: Exam results are coming out tomorrow...
Worst: Exam results are coming out tomorrow. Now that we’ve cleared that up....
The best things are being absolute Newt Scamander trash, like every other month of the year, buying goods online to feed my Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts addiction, Mum giving me an allowance so I can very carefully manage my own finances (a little bit daunting,) seeing friends, reading, watching the Harry Potter movies (like every other month of the year,) swimming, It’s 2018!!! (which is also scary,) writing for/to you, Cathy!! ... seaside markets, fangirling. And the worst... holiday boredom,
going back to school next month (which is also a good thing... I live in NZ by the way!) and the fact it’s not 2017! (Which is also a good thing)

Sophie says:
Best... cosy blankets, cosy boots, hot chocolate, winter craft activities, making bird food, books, libraries re-open. Worst... dark mornings and dark afternoons, freezing cold weather (not many really!)

Melissa says:
The best thing about Jan is my birthday! It lifts the whole month, and gives me something to look forward to, because otherwise it feels like a VERY long month! I hate the dark nights and the cold, wet days but I do love it when it snows!

Kellie says:
I love the sense of a new beginning, and the buzz of feeling that all my plans and resolutions for the new year will come true. That buzz doesn't always last but it's great while it does! I am very determined this year and hopeful that things will work out well! Those hopes light up a dark, gloomy month!

Cathy says:
Great to hear so much positivity in what can be quite a gloomy month! Keep it up! How do YOU feel about January? Post-Christmas blues? Or New year - new you positivity? COMMENT BELOW...

Thursday, 25 January 2018

NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES: YOUNG CARER'S AWARENESS DAY

25th January is Young Carer's Awareness Day... mum and daughter Victoria and Adele-Caitlin tell us just why that awareness matters...

Victoria says: There's a hidden army in this country, doing an incredible job, helping communities and saving the government almost £60 billion a year, but do you know who they are? Carers! Yes, unpaid carers of all ages including children (young carers.)  A young carer is a child/young person under twenty five years of age who helps to look after someone at home and takes responsibility for them. It might be a parent, sibling or family member who has a disability, long term illness, mental health condition or a problem with drugs or alcohol. Illness and disability don't discriminate. - they can affect anyone at any time in their life. 

When someone becomes disabled or has a long term illness it has an impact on the entire family, and children become young carers.  This is exactly what happened to my family in 2003 when my children were only five and two years old. Their Dad was diagnosed with an incurable rare brain condition called Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (I.H.) Our lives changed overnight and we became carers (with it being such a complex condition everyone was affected.) More recently my children have started caring for me after I was diagnosed with Ehler Danlos Syndrome.  The Caitlin's Wish young carers awareness work has evolved from what we've experienced as a family. My daughter Adele-Caitlin's 'wish' was to make a difference for other young carers... our aim being to raise awareness of what it's like to be a young carer so that they're treated with the respect and understanding they deserve. That's the aim of Young Carers Awareness Day too!

Adele-Caitlin says:
Being a carer is never easy. It’s full of ups and downs; one day, life seems perfect and another it’s falling apart. Caring makes us too empathetic, so we feel everyone's pain but we feel as though nobody understands our pain. Caring makes us feel lost and alone at times, so I asked my Mum (Victoria) to write books to help all young carers, including myself, to realise that we’re not alone and that although it causes heartache, being young carers can make us stronger, smarter and braver than most kids our age.

For more info please go to -
www.caitlinswish.com
www.victoria-lewin.com
https://www.slideshare.net/VTaylorAuthor/caitlins-wish-young-carers-awareness
https://www.slideshare.net/VTaylorAuthor/what-is-ih-and-how-does-it-affect-families
http://https://youtu.be/pDPSE_jV17o whocares4us.wixsite.com/website
https://www.facebook.com/CaitlinsWishOfficial/
https://carers.org
http://aacy.org
http://www.youngcarers.net.au

Cathy says:
I know how very exhausting it can be to be a carer, emotionally and physically, and can only imagine how much tougher this must be for young carers. Have YOU ever had to look after someone in this way? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

MOLLIE SAYS: MY FEELINGS ARE ALL MUDDLED UP...

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Mollie has a problem for SKYE TANBERRY to solve...

Mollie says:
I have this friend, and he's a boy, and I used to have a crush on him but now I am just really confused and I don't know if I still like him or not. I know who HE likes, and I try my best to be a good friend and give him advice... but I don't know why I do that when I'm so confused about how I feel about him. We chat online no problem, but when we talk in person it always feels a little awkward and that makes me feel bad because he's a great friend and I don't want to lose that connection. I hate it when we chat when others are around, too, because I always think his friends - or mine - are judging us. It's such a muddle - help!

Skye says:
I think the crush may be fading - or you wouldn't need to ask me if there's an attraction or not! That's the nature of a crush - it can be quick and intense and all-consuming, and then it's over almost before you realise. You're left with a good friendship and that's great - just don't try to push it. I can't help wondering if the friendship is part of why the crush is fading - as you know each other and get on well, there would have been a chance to take things further, but I suspect neither of you would be ready for that. Keeping things on a friendship basis is safer! I hate the feeling that people are judging me for who I talk to, but in school people can be silly and make assumptions when nothing is going on. Brush off any silly remarks and just enjoy this friendship for what it is! Good luck!

Cathy says:
I agree with Skye - a crush can be short and sweet, at this age especially! If Mollie's feelings DO deepen at any point, she will have a strong friendship base to work from, and that can only be a good thing, but for now I think the muddles feelings signal that that friendship is all that she wants. What do YOU think? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 22 January 2018

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: SNOW MAGIC

A magical wintry story from talented young writer Blue... take five minutes out of your day to relax, curl up and enjoy!

Stepping out of the front door, I exhale and watch my breath swirl in the air before drifting away. I love winter. Yes, it's cold, freezing actually - but it's magical all the same. Especially January. It's often overlooked in favour of December, but January, smack bang in the middle of winter, is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts, a time when anything seems possible. Well... almost anything.

A young girl jogs down the street, struggling to keep pace with the lanky teenage boy she's with, dragging an old-fashioned sled behind her. She beams at him in admiration; he looks like he'd rather be anywhere else than with his little sister, heading for the play park. From my bench at the edge of the park, I can hear everything they say. 'What d'you want to do first, Cleo?' the boy asks, shivering in his hooded sweatshirt. 'I can push you on the swings?'

Cleo pouts. 'No... I want to go sledding, Ben!' she says, gesturing to the wooden sled.

The teenager runs his hands through his hair. 'Cleo, we've been over this,' he sighs. 'You can't go sledding when there isn't any snow. We tried last year, remember? You fell and tore your new jeans, and Nan yelled at us. No snow, no sledding. I'm sorry, Cleo.'

Cleo is dangerously close to tears now. 'But it never snows!' she argues. 'It hasn't snowed in years! I am never ever ever going to get to go sledding again because you won't let me - you're the meanest big brother in the whole wide world!' She sits down on the sled, head in her mittened hands.

'Cleo, I don't control the weather!' Ben snaps. From my vantage point on the bench, I smile. They remind me of my younger brother and I growing up... we were forever fighting and throwing tantrums. Cleo does have a point, though. Winter, though bitingly cold, rarely brings snow these days. Soon enough, Cleo will grow up, wrapped up in teenage life like my own little brother is now, sleeping till noon. She'll forget about simple joys like sledding down a hill on a blanket of fresh snow. Her brother may not be able to control the weather - so it's a good job I can.

Slipping off my gloves, I rub my hands together, feeling the chill spread from my wrists to my fingertips. I shake my hands and small, barely noticeable blue sparks shoot up into the atmosphere. I grin as the first flakes of snow start to fall, gently at first and then a flurry.

'Wow!' Ben splutters, pulling his hood up. 'Where did this come from? Looks like we get to go sledding after all!' The excitement in his eyes betrays the nonchalance in his voice and I realise that eight or eighteen, you are never too old for sledding.

Cleo is spinning in the snow, her hands stretched out to catch the flakes as they fall. 'Magic!' she breathes.

Magic? I'm not sure about that. It's simple atmospheric excitation, no wands or abracadabras required. Slipping my hands back into my gloves, I get up and head for a walk in the snow, Cleo's squeals and Ben's laughter still ringing in my ears. I love midwinter, the start of the new year with the future spreading out before me like a fresh blanket of snow. Anything is possible. Anything at all.

Cathy says:
This gorgeous story gives me shivers... I LOVE it! Brilliant stuff, Violet! If YOU love to write, why not give a 'like' to the CC Facebook Fan Page and join in with the regular story challenges? And feel free to COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

PLEASE HELP OLIVIA!


Four years ago, a cool, clever and feisty girl called Olivia won our MY BEST FRIEND ROCKS competition with her friend Ella. Now, Olivia is suffering from a serious spinal condition... she and her mum Estelle explain how WE can help...

Estelle says:
I still remember how excited Olivia was to win Cathy Cassidy's MY BEST FRIEND ROCKS competition in 2013... now fourteen, Olivia has been diagnosed with severe scoliosis, a deformity of the spine which has left her misshapen and in a great deal of pain. We first noticed a hump in Olivia's back just before Christmas 2016, and a consultant gave us the devastating news that she had adolescent idiopathic scoliosis which sometimes occurs during puberty for no known reason.

There was no cure, physiotherapy would not help and Olivia would have to wear a thick plastic brace to slow the curvature - but only major spinal surgery could prevent ongoing deterioration and disability. Sadly, conflicting advice and admin delays have held up this urgent treatment and caused great stress to us all. When we heard of a new kind of scoliosis surgery which was less invasive and could restore full spinal flexibility, our hope soared. We travelled to Germany to meet the surgeon, and were certain this was the right thing for Olivia - but it was not available on the NHS. We need to raise £35,000 to fund an operation in Germany in March... can YOU help us?

Olivia says:
I started noticing the pain in the summer of 2016; it is a deep and constant pain and it's hard to stand for long periods. The brace feels quite primitive - it's like a plastic corset, thick, restrictive and unwieldy. I cover it up with baggy t-shirts, and at least wearing it is a positive thing as it supports my spine. I have to wear it every day, only taking it off for sports or showering, but I'm getting used to it. I am worried about the surgery, but we met a girl who had successful VBT surgery and that was reassuring. I would like to start a national campaign to get all primary schools to carry out spinal checks so that problems like mine could be spotted and corrected earlier, and other children wouldn't have to go through what I'm going through now.

Can YOU help Olivia to get this ground-breaking surgery before it's too late? All money raised will be put towards the cost of Olivia's life-changing surgery and associated costs. If the option for VBT becomes unavailable, all donations will be refunded. Please share our story with friends and on social media - any donation, however small, can help.

To donate, click HERE - but please check with your parents/carers first if you are under 18!

Watch Olivia and Ella's awesome entry for MBFR 2013 and please think about donating and help Olivia find the fun in life once again.

Cathy says:
As you can imagine, this story feels personal to me... no fourteen year old should be going through what Olivia is. If your family can donate - or your class at school perhaps - that would be amazing. THANK YOU on behalf of Olivia and her family! Please COMMENT BELOW to leave a message of support for Olivia.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

KATIE: LOVING LOVE FROM LEXIE!

NZ reader Katie reviews LOVE FROM LEXIE in her own inimitable way... best review ever! Blush, blush! And thank you!

Katie says:
LOVE FROM LEXIE - the novel in which Cathy Cassidy does All The Things!

- THE TORTOISE THING. Mary Shelley is tortoise goals and she is the reason I was hooked before the 30-page mark. Like, 'Oh, look, we're going on a tortoise hunt!'!

- THE BAD BOY THING. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. We have another bad boy on our hands. He;s just as scrumptious as the last ones but he's got a big ol' secret. Nevertheless, the show must go on! Can you tell I'm pumped?

- THE LIBRARY THING. OK - so there's this librarian based on a real life person and her dresses are just TOO MUCH. I have a Harry Potter dress that I think Miss Walker would approve of! The tears and the hot chocolates and the cookies - librarians are the best, right? And the super cool library with the super cool things and the importance of the libraries. I just can't. Libraries are SO VERY IMPORTANT. My local librarians didn't bat an eyelid when LOVE FROM LEXIE got chewed up by my puppy Luna! She didn't mean it!  cannot stress enough the importance of reading, ad Cathy Cassidy articulates it so beautifully, and what a library has to offer, which is a whole heckin' lot!

- THE HARRY POTTER THING. I can't breathe. I. Am. Obsessed. As if BROKEN HEART CLUB wasn't enough (go read it!) Cathy Cassidy did the thing and sprinkled Harry Potter references all through LOVE FROM LEXIE and now I can't even... because Harry Potter is MY LIFE and Cathy Cassidy recognises and acknowledges this and she is willing to raise other children's books up. To be honest one of the parts I cried at was the library performance for the TV news, because they used PHILOSOPHER'S STONE...

- THE HITTING ME IN THE FEELS THING. So there's Lexie who narrates the story, and the whole time I am thinking, 'I will protect you from the Dementors, child...' and then there's the band, and then there's MARLEY. Marley is just a whole other level of feels and I thought LOVE FROM LEXIE couldn't get any more powerful, more important, and then the thing with Marley happened. Wow.

Honourable mentions go to THE CAKE THING; THE MINORITY INCLUSION THING; and THE SONG LYRICS THING. Roll on the sequel!

Cathy says:
I totally love this review... if LOVE FROM LEXIE never gets another one, I'll still be content with all the loveliness here! Have YOU read LOVE FROM LEXIE yet? What are you waiting for?COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 19 January 2018

HOW TO BE A DOMESTIC GODDESS... OR NOT!

Reader Ruby tells us about her vow to become a culinary superstar before leaving home for uni this autumn... maybe...

Ruby says:
I study hard, I am all set to get good A level results and I have an unconditional offer to the university course of my choice for October 2018. Sometimes I feel like the luckiest person ever... smart, grown up, and independent, with my life on track. And then I step into the kitchen.

I don't know why it is that I can pass exams and yet be too dim to make a piece of toast without burning it, but that's me. I am allergic to the kitchen. If I boil an egg it turns out hard as a bullet - or gloopy and raw. The last time I tried to boil pasta, it formed a congealed rubbery slab in the base of the pan, and had to be scraped into the bin. I am a kitchen disaster.

This all started when I was little and was given a book for Christmas that had lots of fun things to do in it. One of the things was to make fudge, and I decided on Boxing Day afternoon to whip up a home made sweet treat for the family. I sneaked into the kitchen and started boiling up butter and sugar, just like it said in the recipe, and the next minute the smoke alarm was screeching and the pan was on fire and my dad raced in and had to actually throw it out of the back door into the garden. (The pan never recovered and had to be thrown away.)

The thing is, I know my kitchen allergy is pretty feeble. I also know that unless I learn to cook soon, I will starve to death when I leave home for uni... and my flatmates will laugh at me, which is almost worse. So my New Years Resolution is to learn to cook... starting with the basics, such as not destroying so many saucepans or burning the cooker every time I go near it. So far, I have mastered the skill of chopping and frying an onion (it made me cry but life is cruel, right?). I have learned not to burn toast (you have to stand over it and not take your eye off it, which is very boring). Next week I will be attempting to add cheese to the toast - NOT in a toaster, before you ask.

The plan is, by October I will be able to make a three course dinner and bake a show-stopper five-tier chocolate cake. I will be the hero of my student flat, and always in demand to cook student dinner parties, and they'll nominate me for Masterchef or Bake-Off or something. Move over, Nigella, I am on my way!

Illustration by Cathy Cassidy

Cathy says:
Ruby's post really made me laugh - and it struck a chord, too, as I am no great shakes in the kitchen either! I wish her well! Are YOU a kitchen queen? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!