Tuesday, 30 September 2014

NOA: I WANT TO BE AN ECO WARRIOR!

This week, reader Noa has a question for Coco Tanberry - will you agree with Coco's advice?

Noa says:
I just do not get along with girls my age… I honestly do not care about One Direction, lipstick or boys. My interests are the environment, rabbits, cats, horses, playing violin, reading, writing, craft, cookery… just like you! People think I'm immature, but I disagree… I'm just different! I feel sad as I have no real friends at school, and I'd love some advice on changing this. And some tips on saving the planet, too, if possible!

Coco says:
We really do have lots in common! I feel your pain - I do have friends, but they think I'm crazy a lot of the time! Who cares? I am true to myself and you should be, too. You CAN find some friends… it's just a case of finding kids with similar interests. This term I've started a Green Club at school… I asked my art teacher if I could use her room and made some posters, and we meet every Monday lunchtime. I have actually met some new people this way, who are on the way to becoming proper friends. Every week we talk about a different issue and plan ways to raise money or make posters or campaign to change things. Sometimes it's something big, like writing to the Prime Minister to stop the badger cull, and sometimes it's smaller stuff like getting the school to recycle paper. We are also raising money to sponsor a horse at a local sanctuary. So whatever your interests, you can find out more and get involved in trying to change things. Remember that friends don't have to be perfect, or have to agree with you on every issue or interest… be flexible. Friendship is a two-way thing, and sometimes you can get on with people who are very different as long as both of you are willing to accept the other. Good luck!

Cathy says:
Good advice from Coco… would YOU add to it? If you have tips on making new friends or saving the planet, COMMENT BELOW to share them with Noa!

LAURA'S ORANGE FAIRY CAKES!

Get the 'Bake-Off' vibe and rustle up some lush and zesty orange fairy cakes… reader Laura shows you how!

Laura says:
I have been baking ever since I was a toddler - as soon as I could stand up, really. I generally just licked the bowl - well, doesn't everyone? Normally I bake simple Victoria sponge cakes and cupcakes, but now I am branching out and trying more things. I have baked for my friend's Macmillan Coffee Morning, for my dad's running club and for the Christmas Fair at my old primary school. My next projects are lemon and blueberry cupcakes and red velvet and chocolate marbled cupcakes! I'll keep you posted on how I get on, but meanwhile I think you'll love this recipe!

You will need...

for the fairy cakes:

100g caster sugar
100g soft margarine
2 eggs
100g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Grated rind of 1 orange


for the icing:

225g icing sugar
juice of 1 orange (the one you grated earlier!)


Method:

Pre-heat oven to 200c/400f/gas mark 6. Place about 18 paper cake cases in bun tins. I only had a tin for 12 so I just made really big fairy cakes - it worked great!)
Measure ingredients into a large bowl and beat well for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Spoon into the paper cases so they are half-full.
Bake for 15-10 minutes until cakes are well risen and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Place icing sugar in a bowl and add orange juice until the icing is fairly stiff and smooth. Spoon on top of cakes. I added some grated orange rind on top to make them look nice!

Last but not least - enjoy!

Cathy says:
These look and sound gorgeous… I imagine they would work really well with lemon too! Do YOU have a favourite cakey recipe? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

STEPHANIE-JADE: THE STEPS!

Is a family split the end of the world, or is there life after divorce? And what happens when you have half brothers and sisters? Reader Stephanie shares her experience of being part of a 'blended' family…

Stephanie-Jade says:
My mum and dad split when I was very little, so I don't remember the details and I didn't completely understand what was going on. As I've got older, I know it's because they argued a lot and wanted different things. I live with my mum, but my dad has a new partner now and they have three children together - which means I have three half-siblings! We live several hundred miles apart, so we don't see each other very often - a=maybe three or four times a year - but we are most definitely a family!

I was around six when Rosie, the eldest, was born. As the years went on, Alfie and Poppy were too. My main worry at first was about how often I'd get to see them and whether they would treat me as a sister, but I needn't have worried - they do! It's a little scary to know that your family are not all together, but we all cope; we talk to each other on the phone and are in contact a lot. At the moment, Dad is in Italy for work and we are all missing him like mad - I wish we could be there more for each other to talk about it and support each other, but we do our best! It helps that I like Dad's new partner… she is very supportive of me and we all get along really well.

Poppy is the youngest of my three half-siblings… whenever I see her she is desperate to spend 24/7 with me and loves taking selfies with me! She understands why I can't see her as often as I'd like but she says she would pay for me to visit more! Little briber! Poppy is a mini-me… she is addicted to loom bands and loves hugs. She is adventurous for her young age and always wants me to style her hair, although she always ends up styling mine in the end! She's the youngest, yet she has the biggest imagination!

Alfie is the only brother so having three sisters may not be his favourite thing ever! He's a typical boy… he loves nerf guns, motorbikes and is a daredevil, attempting to climb every tree he sees. He gets into lots of arguments with Poppy and Rosie, so when I'm around I have to be the peacemaker! It's worth it for when they do get along, and that's the time when I get to see them all being happy and we feel like a proper family. Alfie would like a brother, but he says I'm all right, so that's what matters!

Rosie is the eldest of my half-siblings and tries to take charge a lot. Like Poppy, she likes loom bands and girly things, but likes to be independent too - and that gets her into trouble when she tries to boss the other two around! She looks after the younger ones well though, and lets me take charge when I see them. Rosie is really into Moshi Monsters… sharing time learning about Katsuma is always fun. Rosie does test you, so pay attention!

Being a split family does not affect our love for each other, and when we do get together it's like we saw each other only yesterday. They are always smiling and I am so proud to call them my siblings!

Cathy says:
Families come in all shapes and sizes… as long as there's love to hold it all together, that's what matters! Are YOU part of a blended family, or have you been through a family split? COMMENT BELOW to share your experience or to give a shout-out to Stephanie-Jade!

WHEN SCHOOL'S A NIGHTMARE…

School can be pretty awesome… but what happens when it's not? When we asked if any CC readers had ever dreaded going to school, we didn't expect quite so many responses. Here, some of the girls discuss their experiences…

Gina says:
I hated school for ages when I was in primary because there was one boy who was absolutely horrible to me. I was small for my age and he'd chase me with sticks and twigs and once got me in a headlock with his arm around my throat. Luckily my mum was picking my sister up from morning nursery and saw him. She marched over and screamed at him, and I never had any bother with him after that.

Sandie says:
Bullying is the problem for me too, Gina. I'm in High School, but it's an exam year so I have to keep on going in. I put on a fake face to get through the day sometimes - not for myself, but for others. Other people don't need to see the broken person behind the mask. All I can think about is leaving school altogether… there's no other way out.

Karen says:
That sounds awful, Sandie. Have you tried telling a guidance teacher? For me it wasn't so much bullying… I began dreading school when my dad got ill. I was so worried about him I couldn't concentrate on schoolwork, and I'd get really anxious and have panic attacks. School seemed to trigger it, but thankfully things have eased off.

Ashleigh says:
I can identify with that. I have panic attacks and there was a time last year when I was only managing two lessons a day. It was everything - the bus, the lessons, the classmates. This year is making me feel anxious already, as many classes have changed around and there are some aggressive people in one  group. Last year I had what we called a 'get-out-of-class-free' card, which meant I could escape when I felt an attack coming on. I also went to maths club at lunchtimes and that helped… better than facing the dining hall.

Lindsey says:
I'm having a problem right now. It started with a jokey comment - I thought I was being funny, but my friend didn't. I apologised the next day but she hates me now and has got all our mutual friends to blank me. I spend break and lunch alone and nobody wants me tagging alone. I'd rather be at home curled up in bed than at school and feeling so alone. I wish I could go back in time - I'd never have said anything.

Kate says:
Lindsey, a joke can backfire, can't it? I hope things get better for you. My story is that I was bullied really badly - I got so scared that I'd make up excuses not to go to school, pretend to be ill. I never knew why the bullies picked on me; maybe because I was small or maybe because I never talked? I don't speak much because I'm shy… I'm scared to. I can speak to people if I've known them for ages, but otherwise I just don't speak. It's called elective mutism. If I had to go to school, I'd sometimes just go to the girls loos and sit there and cry.

Biba says:
I was pretty much the same, Kate. From the age of seven to fourteen, I was bullied really badly - when I was eight, my teacher actually bullied me. She picked on me for being deaf and made me afraid to speak in class, put me in a lower maths and reading group than I should have been and generally made my life a misery. I used to throw up from nerves every morning. My mum spoke to the school but nobody was willing to help me. I had one close friend, but that was another source of bullying as people labelled us gay. By twelve, things were going downhill and I often feigned illness because I couldn't face another day of bullying. At thirteen, I had a breakdown and took some days off school… when I returned, the main bully was super-nice to me. She was terrified she'd bullied me so badly that i was going to kill myself or something. I was referred to CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Heath Services) and began going to counselling - that did help, but I also learned to deflect comments with wit, sarcasm and clever observations.

Kate says:
I still go to CAMHS counselling, Biba. I don't think my bullies would have cared if I had tried to kill myself… I never spoke, so they probably didn't know how scared I was. I'm at college now and things are better - nobody really bothers with bullying here. We're probably a bit too old for name calling.

Biba says:
I'm at college too, and I'm not bullied any more either… I get stared at quite a lot, but I can live with that. I guess I'm just too gorgeous not to be stared at! You may think your bullies didn't care, Kate, but they would have been in pieces if you'd harmed yourself. They will have been aware that they were being cruel, but nobody ever thinks they'll be the one to push someone that far. It does happen, though, and it's horrific when it does. And not just the bullies, either - everyone you knew would have been devastated.

Kate says:
Thanks for saying that, Biba. I think things are settling… I just blend into the background and nobody seems to notice me at college, but I kind of like that, to be honest. It works for me, and I do have a good friend. I wish I'd know back then that things would get better.

All names have been changed to protect identities of the posters. Pics posed by models.
Photos by Laurel S. Models: Heather, Katie, Roisin and Laurel.

Have you been struggling with problems of bullying or anxiety? Tell your parents and confide in a guidance tutor, school counsellor or any trusted teacher. You can find help and support outside of school, too… try these support groups:
BeatBullying: www.beatbullying.org
ChildLine: 0800 1111
Young Minds: www.youngminds.org.uk

Cathy says:
These true stories show that school isn't all plain sailing… but also that there IS hope, if you speak out and ask for help and support. It may not be an instant answer, but as Kate says, things often do get better, and meanwhile there are lots of places which can help. Have YOU ever dreaded school? COMMENT BELOW to share YOUR experience or show your support for the girls in our discussion...

Friday, 26 September 2014

EMMA WATSON: WHY YOU SHOULD BE A FEMINIST

Emma Watson spoke out recently out on what being feminist REALLY means… Cathy explains why Emma's speech to the UN is so important. Please do read on and watch the link. This is awesome.

Cathy says:
Sometimes, when I say I'm a feminist, people frown. They think that being feminist is about hating men, burning your bra or wearing your hair in a buzz-cut. They think it means that you can't like the colour pink, or wear a cute dress or fall in love with a boy. They think that we're already equal, that there's nothing left to fight for, that rocking the boat will just cause trouble.

Wrong. Being feminist is NOT about hating men. Seriously. And actually, the coolest men I know are feminist too… my husband, my son, my lovely male friends. Being feminist is about valuing both sexes equally, about being seen as a person and not just a sex object, about being treated fairly, and about having the freedom to be whoever you want to be.

You can't tell who is or isn't a feminist from the outside. It might mean wearing Doc Martens and dungarees one day and a vintage dress the next; it might mean wearing your hair in a shocking pink mohawk or having ringlet extensions down to your waist or maybe a hijab. It could be me, and it could, I hope, be you. If you are a feminist, you believe that women should be respected, listened to, paid equally, given the chance to be educated and to make decisions about our own body, our own life. Men and women should have equal rights, equal freedoms, equal opportunities and equal respect.

Emma Watson was invited to the United Nations to speak about this, and about why men need to get involved in fighting sexism too. We are not an equal society, an equal world - every day, in countries all around the world, women face inequality, violence, ignorance and abuse. Emma invites men to join us in supporting equal rights in her #heforshe campaign. Emma's speech is powerful, moving and honest. I wanted to share it with you here…. please take ten minutes to watch and listen:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0Dg226G2Z8&feature=youtu.be

Emma's speech is awesome, but some people did not agree with her message of equality. Almost at once, Emma was threatened by internet trolls who said they had obtained embarrassing photos of her, and would publish them online. They were trying to bully, shame and humiliate Emma, to punish her for speaking out… and they have shown how scared some people are of allowing women, who make up half of the population of the earth, to take an equal place in society.

Bullies, however, just show their own cowardice and fear when they try to silence those who speak out for what is right and fair. In the days that have followed, Emma's campaign has gathered more support than it ever would have before. Celebrity men have come forward to support Emma's #heforshe campaign, including author Neil Gaiman and actors Russel Crowe, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Pegg, Chris Colfer (pictured) and Douglas Booth.

I am proud to say that I am a feminist; that I too stand up for the rights of girls and women around the world. How about you?

COMMENT BELOW to share YOUR views on Emma's speech… and on the spiteful internet trolls who tried to silence her. What do YOU think?

Thursday, 25 September 2014

MARYAM: I DON'T KNOW WHO TO TALK TO...

Reader Maryam asks Summer Tanberry for advice… because she doesn't know who else to turn to...

Maryam says:
Please help. Ever since the start of the summer I have been feeling weird, not quite myself. There was no real reason for it, but I found myself spending a lot more time on my own and making excuses not to see my friends because I knew I wouldn't be able to pretend everything was all right if I was with them. Now that school has started again, it's worse. Some days I don't want to get out of bed, and every night I lie awake crying although my logical mind knows that there's nothing to cry about. My friends know something is wrong, but I can't talk to them because they'd just tell me to cheer up or get a grip. I think they will stop wanting to hang out with me; I don't blame them. I don't seem to care about anything anymore. This week I have missed four days of school because I pretended I had a bug, but I'm not sure Mum believes me. She is a single mum and works hard for us so I tell her how I feel - it's the last thing she needs.

Summer says:
Oh Maryam, this sounds so like the way I felt last year. It's was a bit different for me, because there was an eating disorder involved as well and people did notice that, but I had the same sense of 'switching off' from what was going on around me. I think you'd call it depression. You might think that your friends won't understand, but try them - they care about you, so talk to them and let them support you. They may even come along with you to talk to a guidance teacher - or, if you don't have one, choose a teacher you like and trust and ask to speak to them privately after class. Teachers often seem busy but they DO care about what's going on with their pupils and they will try to help. You also need to talk to your Mum. Keeping quiet so as not to worry her is NOT an option… this won't go away on its own. You need help and support, and your Mum can help you sort that.

My mum was also a single mum for a few years so I totally get the anxiety of not wanting to add to her worries, but you MUST talk to her. She can arrange for you to see a doctor. Depression is just as serious as any physical illness… and help is available. You feel like hiding away but TALKING and asking for help is the most important thing of all… it's your only way to change things, to make life better again. It may feel impossible right now, but I too felt very lost and very hopeless not so long ago. Things CAN be different. You've found the courage to talk to me… now take it further and tell your friends, teachers, Mum, doctor. I wish you all the luck in the world.

HELPBOX
Call ChildLine on 0800 1111
Young Minds: youngminds.org.uk

Cathy says:
Summer is right… Maryam needs to speak out about how she is feeling before things get any worse. Do YOU have any advice for Maryam? COMMENT BELOW to share your suggestions...

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

VICTORIA: I'M RUSSIAN ORTHODOX

Another in our occasional series about readers' religions… we talk to Victoria who is a Russian Orthodox Christian…

Victoria says:
I'm thirteen and I live in Denmark, but I was christened in St Petersburg in Russia, which is where my mum comes from. I was christened as Russian Orthodox, which is a major religion in Russia; it is also very widespread throughout Eastern Europe and is common in some Middle Eastern countries too. Having said that, my family have never been very religious, and we very rarely go to church… but it is still a faith I feel I belong to!

The Russian Orthodox faith celebrates Christmas on 7th January according to our calendar, but our New Year is December 31st/ January 1st. A second Christmas is celebrated on December 25th and a second New Year on January 14th. Easter is celebrated a lot in Russia, and we fast on pancakes before Easter. My dad is Catholic, although his dad was a Polish Jew… when we visit Poland we go to church with our family there, and I admire the Catholic religion very much. Having said that, if I could choose another religion, I think I would choose to be Jewish!

Although I don't know very much about the Russian Orthodox religion, I love to read about it and when I visit the beautiful Orthodox churches in russia I feel very secure and at home. I am glad to have been christened in Russia rather than in an Orthodox church here in Denmark, like my brother! The picture shows the beautiful church where I was christened. One main difference between the Catholic and Orthodox religions is that we believe that Christ gave himself voluntarily to the cross - he died willingly, and for all.

Cathy says:
I loved Victoria's insight into the world of the Russian Orthodox faith… fascinating stuff! Do YOU have a faith or religion which means a lot to you? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more, or to comment on Victoria's post. As always when talking about religious beliefs, remember to be respectful of others with different beliefs!