Wednesday, 17 September 2014

THE PURR-FECT PET...

We asked readers to tell us about their favourite pets… and this is what they said!

Vicky says:
Billie was brought home in late September 2007. She is a purebred Jack Russell Terrier and some people think that this breed of dog can be dangerous, but that's not true - Billie has a great temperment. Billie is my best friend; I used to read her some of my books when I was younger, and snuggle up with her. Also, I was obsessed with her ears - I used to put bobbles on them as if they were hair. Not the best thing to do, but she was always very patient! Billie has always been there for me when I'm feeling down, and I am there for her in return if she's feeling unwell. I love her so much!

Blue says:
I have so many stories of my cat Finn (named after Finn in DIZZY.) Like how he used to sit on my shoulder as a kitten or how he used to climb the doorframe to get to the shelf where he liked to sleep, and taught the other cats to do the same. How we took him for walks around town, where he'd be fussed by everyone we met; or how he purred so loudly the whole house could hear him. He purred when he ate, he purred when he slept… he purred all the time. Or how, when he was about to be put down two months after his second birthday as he was ill with a progressive bladder problem, he sat perfectly still on the examination table as I held him and sobbed. It was like he knew what was happening and wanted to reassure me he'd be OK. I don't have any pictures of us together - I only have about three pictures of him because I lost my phone a few months after he died. So I'm posting this picture, the little tub with a tree pattern and 'Finn' plaque on the lid that contains his ashes, and the forget-me-not locket with a snippet of his fur in it. I miss my baby.

Kiera says:
We got our dog Pepper (female!) in 2006, and we were all so excited - I'd never known anything like it.  When my mum and brother arrived home with Pepper, I was dying to see her. My brother has always said that he didn't choose Pepper - she chose him. I think that's such a cute way to put it, rather than saying, 'I saw a dog and it fell in love with me,' or something along those lines. Pepper has been the best dog ever, although she is getting older now. When her time comes, I will be extremely sad, but I will always be incredibly grateful for everything she has done for me!

Heather says:
My dog Ozzy is probably the best pet I have ever had. He is bouncy, lively and extremely cute. He goes for runs in the woods every day and loves to dive into refreshing, cool and sometimes swampy rivers as a way to cool down! He loves to cuddle up and watch TV, and he even likes to join in and have a cup of tea and a slice of toast! His characteristics are cheeky and mischievous but loving and friendly as well. He's brilliant!

Mary Joy says:
I got my pet rat Lucky in 2008. She was very small and soft and she got her name as I remember thinking how very lucky I was to have her! I held her all the way home and couldn't stop smiling. I'd had another pet rat before Lucky, so I had some experience in caring for a rat; Lucky had a two-storey mansion cage at home to roam about in. When she first arrived there were a few issues - she bit Mum and also Mum's cousin, and there came a point when we felt it might be kinder to let her go - to give her chance of living in the wild, so she didn't bite other people. One night we opened her cage and waited for her to run away… but amazingly, she didn't. She sniffed Mum's shoe and climbed back into her cage; she had chosen to stay with us. The biting stopped. We discovered that she was probably scared and that we'd unwittingly been frightening her, and after that we all got along much better. We also learned that you can't release a pet into the wild, not even a rat, so I'm glad she didn't go - she wouldn't have managed alone.) Lucky was dark brown with a white tummy and little socks; she was so cute when she ate her food and cleaned behind her ears. We had an amazingly close bond between us and I loved her a lot. Lucky passed away peacefully at the end of 2010, but the good memories are locked in my heart forever.

Cathy says:
Awww… so many happy and sad stories! Animals can mean so much to us… I know that mine do to me! COMMENT BELOW if you'd like to have YOUR say - or just tell us about your own purr-fect pets!

KIARA: I LIED ABOUT MY SUMMER ROMANCE...

Another in our occasional series of reader's problems… this time, reader Kiara has a question for CHERRY COSTELLO…

Kiara says:
I don't feel like I fit in at school - my friends seem to be growing up faster than me and are always talking about crushes and boyfriends. I know they think I am babyish. When we went back to school, they were talking about holiday romances. I don't know why I did it, but I blurted out that I'd had a holiday romance in Wales, where I spent three weeks in the summer. I just didn't want to feel left out, but the lie has spiralled out of control and they want more details all the time. They keep asking if he's written or messaged lately... they want to see letters and texts and messages, and ask why he isn't on my Facebook. I wish I'd never opened my mouth.

Cherry says:
Lies… they start out as a kind of self-defence sometimes, don't they? I used to make up stories about my mum when I was younger, and the things I said were things I wanted to believe - but they weren't true, and in the end it all backfired on me. I think people knew all along I'd been making things up, and it got to the point where they just didn't trust me at all. I've learned from that mistake and when I moved south to Kitnor I made a fresh start and drew a line under the 'little white lies'. It feels a lot better that way.

So… how do you get out of this mess? You have two choices. You can come clean and admit that you made up the holiday romance because you wanted to be like your friends. Let them know you're feeling insecure and unsure of the friendship these days… and that you wanted to regain their attention and interest. Truth can hurt - your friends will be upset that you lied to them and their trust in you may be dented, but if you explain why you did it they might just understand.

Your second option is to tell them your boyfriend has finished things, and that you'd rather not talk about him anymore. Yes, it's another lie… but it closes the door on the whole episode and allows you to keep some dignity. Don't be drawn into discussing things - just insist you want to put it all behind you, pretend it didn't happen.

Whichever choice you make, LEARN from this mistake and stick to the truth in future… your friends won't care how many boyfriends you have or haven't had, they like you for YOU. Remember that - and remember that lies lead to trouble. Good luck!

Cathy says:
Do you agree with Cherry's advice? What would YOU say to Kiara if you had the chance? MESSAGE BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

HOW TO BE BEST FRIENDS… FOREVER!

Are best friends forever? Not always, alas, but sometimes they can be. Readers share their top advice on being a great mate and making friendship last…

Samiksha says:
Loyalty and understanding are the things that keep a friendship strong. Misunder-standings lead to fights, fights lead to not talking to each other… it becomes a vicious circle. Talk to your BFF and ask her how her day has been, if she's feeling down. Listen to what she says and make her feel better. Don't ever betray her - she's awesome.

Saffie says:
Never talk about a friend behind their back; even if you're saying nice things, it can easily get twisted.

Angela says:
Always plan lots of things to do together so that you have lots to talk about… and try to make each other's lives fun! Avoid arguments and if you are in a group of three of more, be careful not to leave anyone out. If you're sharing a secret, do it with the whole group or none at all.

Merryn says:
Hang out with your friends! It sounds obvious, but this is the simplest and best way to stay close. If you're away on holiday, bring them back a small friendship gift and plan sleepovers and get togethers - I love to have movie marathons with my friends! Even if you're moving, a friendship can stay strong if you make the effort to stay in touch.

Eloise says:
Just have a good banter - talk about anything and everything! When me and my friends fall out, it's never for long and we're always stronger as soon as we make up. Remember to be the first one to apologise, even if it's not your fault - someone has to make the first move!

Lucy says:
It sounds odd, but don't spend twenty-four hours a day with them - it can be too much of a good thing and may trigger arguments! If your friends have worries and problems, pay attention and do what you can to help - give them a hand to resolve the problem or just listen to their worries. Sometimes that's all that is needed… and they'd do the same for you, after all.

Hannah says:
Don't try too hard! True friendships are about personality and having a laugh. If you're faking things to try to fit in, the friendship will never last.

Chloe says:
Be yourself. Joining clubs that interest you is always a good way to meet others with the same interests. True friends will be there through everything, because they care, but remember that in life you will make loads of friends over the years and not all of them will be forever. There is no rule for knowing which friends will last and which will not, but if you work hard a friendship you can overcome most things!

Kellie says:
Don't let shyness stop you from making new friends… be the first to talk and eat at the same table at lunchtimes.

Kiera says:
Don't overdo it! Show them how your personality stands out as an individual spark, but don't try too hard or be too in-their-face all of the time. Just be yourself - there is nothing worse than knowing that someone doesn't like you for you, but for someone you are pretending to be...

Pics posed by models: 
Top pic, photo by Tika, models Daisy and Jaz;
Bottom two pics, models Hailie, Hayley and Kathryn. 
Words: with thanks to the readers on my Facebook fanpage!

Cathy says: 
Awesome suggestions that should keep your friendships strong and true! For more friendship advice, check out my non-fiction book LETTERS TO CATHY which has lots of advice on friendship… check it out! COMMENT BELOW to add YOUR top tips for a lasting friendship!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

THE GREAT DEBATE: EATING VEGGIE!

I've been a veggie since I was fourteen years old and love it… but I was curious to see how my readers felt about the vegetarian diet. I asked a few of them to discuss the issue…

Lillie says:
I've been veggie for just over a month. I'd been thinking of going veggie for a while, as I find the idea of killing and eating animals wrong. I was too scared to say I wanted to be vegetarian so I cut out all meats but chicken, pork and fish, and finally asked my parents if I could go veggie. They were hesitant at first but they soon adjusted - I think they just want to be sure I am eating a balanced diet. They've been great, cooking me some delicious things, so I haven't missed meat at all. My brother and sister tease me a bit, waving a sausage under my nose now and then… my brother even threatened to disown me, but he was just mucking around - I hope! They think it's a big joke but I think they'll respect me once they know I'm serious about it. My friends teased me a bit too; none of them thought I would keep it up, and I even had a bet with one of them! I am determined, though - I will stick with my beliefs.

Fay says:
That seems cool, Lillie… but there are many reasons I am not a veggie:
1/ I don't eat vegetables. No, seriously, I hate them all except peas.
2/ I don't eat fruit either.
3/ I can't imagine a roast dinner without meat.
I think vegetarians have a good idea but I could never be one, even though I only eat a few sorts of meat - fish, chicken and pork. I am pretty sure that in the cave-man days nobody was veggie - I am not saying one way is wrong and another right, just that we were designed to be meat eaters in my opinion. The longest I have ever gone without meat is four days, at a school camp - I didn't eat anything except a packet of crisps each day because I didn't like the food. As a result I got super-cold and had to be given a hot chocolate and a packet of chocolate mints (torture because I hate mints, but still…) to give me extra calories. I don't think I'm fussy at all, but I do have a strict policy - I won't eat something I don't like!

Lillie says:
I totally respect your opinion, Fay. I thought it would be hard to be veggie but there are lots of replacements for meat which taste similar or even better than the original. I agree that we were most likely made to eat meat to give us the protein we need, however we have plenty of other ways now to get the calories we need. You also need to eat fruit and vegetables to be fit and healthy and though cavemen did eat meat they also had to eat their greens! Now that I am veggie I find I like some vegetables I didn't like before, which makes it easier. there's such a huge variety of vegetables you are bound to find something you like! It's not all vegetables, either - I love rice, pasta, couscous and all sorts of beans and pulses. My dad makes a great moussaka with soya mince and who doesn't like a jacket potato with cheese or beans? I totally agree about not eating anything I don't like, but for me this means I can't imagine eating something I like and want to protect!

Rhia says:
A vegetarian is someone who doesn't eat meat, poultry or in some cases fish. I do eat fish as it is good for you, so strictly speaking I am what is called a 'pescetarian'. This is something I have always wanted to try and it has been on/off for years, but I have now stuck to it properly for seven or eight months. It started when I saw a book in the library about being vegetarian - it described how animals were bred for food and how they were treated and how they were slaughtered. Let's just say it wasn't pleasant at all. I went off meat there and then and told my parents the same night; they accepted it pretty well. I've managed fine since then; I eat a lot of quorn… most quorn products are really nice.
Aimear says:
Well done, Rhia… it must be hard giving up foods you've been used to eating! I'm eleven and I've been vegan all my life… that means I am a very strict veggie, I don't eat any meat, fish, dairy or eggs. Why? My parents are vegan and so it seemed natural for all of us to be; and also because of all those poor little animals who are slaughtered and sent to supermarkets and end up on our plates just because people want to eat meat. They haven't done anything wrong and we don't need to eat them. Unfortunately, people have a bit of a block about eating vegan food but it's delicious - really! I love being vegan!

Rhia says:
Wow, that's strict! I wouldn't last a week without dairy or eggs, but I can see the logic in a way. I might try some proper vegan food in the future. Do people ever try to tease you about being vegan?

Aimear says:
I don't mind being strict, but I am realistic as well. Where I have the choice, I don't wear leather, but there have been a few occasions where I didn't have any option… I am not going to beat myself up about that. Sometimes people at school try to get me to change my views by telling me how nice meat is, but that doesn't work, obviously! Sometimes I have a vegan chocolate bar and they'll tease me and say I can't eat it, but that's just a bit of fun. I can eat chocolate and Mum makes great vegan cakes… I am happy with my way of life. It's a part of who I am!

Cathy says:
I love how Lillie, Fay, Rhia and Aimear have all been so positive and accepting of each other… how cool? Over to you now - could YOU ever be veggie? Or vegan? Why… or why not? COMMENT BELOW to have YOUR say!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

TERESA: DEPRESSION IS AN INVISIBLE ILLNESS...

Reader Teresa has battled depression, self harm and an eating disorder over the last few years - and she believes that many of the kids in her school year are struggling too…

Teresa says:
My story starts ages ago… I've never fitted in, right from the start of primary school, and I have always been bullied. I've always had a problem with my weight, and this made me a target for bullies and made me long to be skinny. By the time I was in Year Four I was restricting what I ate, but I was happy apart from that. I had no idea how bad things would get.

By Year Six, the bullying had worsened and I began self-harming. By Year Seven I had started secondary and made new friends, getting away from the bullies. Even my eating disorder was under control. Suddenly it all went wrong - I lost my friends, boys I'd seen as friends turned against me. By Year Eight things were better again - I had a boyfriend and a group of friends who always made me laugh, and my problems seemed to be fading. Then I found out my boyfriend and friends had been using me… and my world crumbled all over again. One day I broke down at school; I couldn't hide the pain any more and the teachers spoke to my family. That could have helped, it didn't; my family didn't want to face the problems or accept that I was in trouble. They chose instead to ignore it all, pretend it wasn't happening, and so nothing really changed.

I have new friends now and a guy I like… things started off great but he has problems similar to mine and things went bad for him. My friends also have problems like this and things went bad for them too. I'd say around a third of the kids in my year have issues like mine, and yet these mostly go un-noticed - they are invisible illnesses. I have found some things that help - reading CC books have shown me that people do care and that things can get better. I like DRIFTWOOD and SUMMER's DREAM especially - they're books that show me I'm not the only one to have feelings like this. I am not sure why so many young people are unhappy these days, but it scares me sometimes. I am getting to the point where I feel like I need to ask for help, and if my family can't face what's happening I will go to the doctor by myself and get support and help from some of the websites and support groups out there.

I don't want to feel this way. I want to feel that life is good… I hope that one day it will genuinely feel that way.

Name has been changed to protect Teresa's identity, and pic posed by model
Photos by: Gratia C Model: Iona

HELP: If you're struggling like Teresa, please reach out and get some help and support...
Young Minds: www.youngminds.org.uk
Beat: www.b-eat.co.uk
ChildLine: Call 0800 1111 or visit www.childline.org.uk
BeatBullying: www.beatbullying.org

Cathy says:
Teresa's story is sad and shocking, but not as unusual as it should be… and I think she is right, there are many young people struggling with invisible illnesses and issues. Have YOU ever been bullied or encountered any of the issues Teresa has? COMMENT BELOW to share your story or offer support and reassurance to Teresa.

Friday, 12 September 2014

TWO GIRLS GO VINTAGE: 2: STYLE IT UP!

The second in our special two-part feature about teen reporters Erin & Erin (yes, yes, I know… really!) who are on the hunt for vintage bargains… this week, the girls show you what to choose and how to wear it!


Erin says:
So… the two of us were in Liverpool for the weekend and there was vintage shopping to be done! We looked at all kind of amazing clothes and styles, like the cool tie-dye t-shirt above, but we're only thirteen and money was definitely an issue - the sad truth is that we couldn't afford all the lovely things we saw. Instead, we were determined to make our money stretch… and that meant steering away from the real statement pieces because they're the things that are pricey! Both of us like casual things that can mix and match with the Top Shop type basics we already have… these were the kind of items we were looking for. They needed to be good value and a little bit different to the high street. We had a plan!

We each bought a shirt… a great black, white and grey man's checked shirt to wear layered over vests, t-shirts and shorts, jacket-style… this cost £3, and I've had lots of wear out of it since. Bargain! We also found a women's paisley shirt for £4 and again the plan was to wear it as a layer - Erin had a black body-con mini dress and the shirt looked great with this. You could also wear it on its own, with the lower few buttons undone and the two ends knotted up to show your belly, with shorts or jeans maybe. A very 50s look! Along with the shirts we got a plain white t-shirt for £3 - the kind of thing you could wear anywhere and with anything, really. I know it will be a wardrobe staple, but if I ever get bored with it I might experiment with tie-dyeing it to see if I can get the effect of the awesome pink tie-dye t-shirt we found but couldn't afford! Vintage pieces have already had a few lives, and who is to say they can't have a few more? When something costs so little, you feel free to adapt and experiment or even change it totally… get creative!

My biggest spend was on these vintage Levis cut-off shorts, from one of the vintage boutiques… they cost £25 but they had so much more character than a new pair would have. I love them! I bought them on the Saturday and wore them out on the Sunday, which is when I found the shirt… it was a great, cool cover-up. I could wear shorts and a crop top but with the shirt on top it was all very relaxed and cool, a fun, summer look. I couldn't resist accessorising with my vintage style sunshades and a fab fedora hat!

Trying on hats was one of the best bits of the weekend, and taking pictures of our shopping trip was brilliant - a few people asked what we were doing and we were able to say we were taking pictures for a teen blog-zine! We had a great weekend, and we learned that really there are no rules for vintage shopping: if you see something awesome and you have the cash, then go for it - it will probably be unique. Otherwise, choose pieces you love and know you'll get lots of use from. Oh… and try on lots of hats wherever you go!

Cathy says:
I've loved this fab two-part feature - it feels like we've all been along for the shopping trip with the two Erins! They make vintage shopping seem fun and easy… will YOU be tempted to give it a try? COMMENT BELOW to tell us!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

KAYLEE: I LIVE IN AUSTRALIA!

Another in our series of features on readers around the world… we talk to Kaylee, who lives in Australia!

Kaylee says:
Hi! Or as we say in Aussie, g'day mate! I'm Kaylee, and I'm from New South Wales, Australia… the land down under in the Southern Hemisphere! Australia is a pretty cool country. It's the biggest island - and we are surrounded by ocean.. lots of it! Australia is split into states - NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, North Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Australian Capital Territory. So… weather. In NSW the weather… sucks! We range from hot to freezing cold to just right. It's supposed to be winter right now but it's actually warm for a winter. Summer is the best time, as we spend it with friends and family at the beach or having a barbeque, which is a great. Sydney is the biggest city in NSW and it's busy! It's home to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, two beautiful man-made landmarks.
Our school system is strict and all schools require you to wear a uniform. My school is especially strict as it's a Catholic all-girls high school. Skirts below the knee, hair tied up… but it's fun! I have drawn the uniform, below. I love my school, it's the best… and the teachers are amazing! They are so unique and cool and creative and crazy! I enjoy Japanese and Music the most and sometimes English and History. What makes my school unique is that we do so much charity and volunteer work that reaches all across Australia and to the outside world, such as raising money for the homeless, or for people in war-torn places like Afghanistan.
Australia is a very multicultural country - two of my friends are from Korea! But, it is also a unique country. It is home to the famous Aussie kangaroos, koalas and Tasmanian devils which do not appear anywhere else. As for food, our signature foods are Tim Tams (chocolate biscuits), Lamingtons (fluffy white cake coated with chocolate and coconut) and barbies, of course! They involve steak, sausages, chips, salad, bread and fun. And because we are multicultural, we have foods from Japan, America, Korea, France and much more. But chocolate will always be the first food of love here…
Our clothes are also different. Everyone has their own style to match the seasons. In Summer it's sunglasses, thongs (flip-flops) shorts and a shirt, and in Winter it's beanies and warm, snuggly clothes. I like to wear tights, a beret and a cute sweater.
I think Captain James Cook claimed the first land back in 1770m but Australia's first inhabitants were the Aboriginal people. Slowly, the land grew into the country we have today. We celebrate most special events, though Christmas is a little different because it means sunshine and beaches! It never snows, not in my area, anyway,
and much as I love the beach I would love to see snow as well!
If there's one thing I don't like about Australia, it's the government; they keep refugees in detention centres or send them back to their country even though they may be in danger there. Horrible, isn't it? I am not good with politics, but I know that this isn't right. Apart from that, Aussies are pretty carefree, and we're a very safe country. Overall, I LOVE Australia… I have met the best people here, awesome teachers and forever friends. I have been to places that will always be special to me. If you ever get the chance, come visit… it's awesome!

Cathy says:
I LOVE Kaylee's exuberant account of life in Australia… who wouldn't want to visit! Have you ever been to Aus? Or would you like to write about your own country? Or maybe you'd just like to COMMENT BELOW on Kaylee's fab feature!