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!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

SHANNON: BEST BROWNIES EVER!

Reader Shannon thinks her gran's recipe for chocolate brownies could be the best ever… and looking at the pictures, I think I agree! Read on to find out how to make them for yourself…

YOU WILL NEED:
240g (8oz) butter
150g (5oz) dark chocolate (you can use milk, but I like dark as it's not too sweet)
60g (2oz) cocoa powder
150g (5oz) plain flour
500g (1lb 2oz) caster sugar
5 eggs, beaten
150g (5oz) marshmallows, chopped… or mini ones.

TO MAKE:
1. Heat oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Allow it to pre-heat while you are mixing the brownies.

2. Melt chocolate and butter together gently on a low heat by placing the broken up chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring gently until melted.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine cocoa, flour and sugar and mix together until gloopy and thick.

4. Pour in the bowl of now melted chocolate and stir until the mixture loosens and softens. Then mix in the eggs. The liquid should be thinner now but with a brownie-like texture!

5. At this point, stir in the marshmallows or, if you prefer, chocolate chips. You can add almonds if you like nuts, too.

6. Stir and then tip the mix into a non-stick baking tin. If it's uneven, smooth it down with a spoon.

7. The brownie should take around 20 minutes to cook, depending on which tin you are using. Check the oven… you can slide in a knife to check the progress; if the knife comes out clean, the brownie is done.

8. Once cooked, take out of oven and score the top of the brownie to mark where you will cut it. Wait a further 30 minutes to cut the cake.

9. The brownie will still be soft at this point, so I recommend leaving it in the fridge overnight to give it that chewy texture.

That's it - curl up and enjoy!

Cathy says:
Wow… I think I might have to try this recipe - with veggie marshmallows, of course! Shannon's masterclass in brownie baking makes it all look easy... and delicious! Do YOU have a foolproof sweet treat recipe, or are you a kitchen klutz? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!












MY CATHY CASSIDY SUMMER!

Did you have a Cathy Cassidy style summer? We asked readers how and why the books and their stories have influenced your summer…

Millie says:
I'm twelve years old and not so keen on reading, or at least I wasn't until recently! I picked up Coco Caramel from the Learning Resources Centre at school before the holidays, and… I am not joking, it was the BEST book I have ever read! I love chocolate, horses, animals… I am so like Coco and I'm also vegetarian and have raised money for animals too. I then searched the library up and down and found Marshmallow Skye… I have never read a book so fast or loved it so much! I never realised that reading could be so special! I've since got hold of a few of the other books too, and they have made my summer. I sat in the arched window of the holiday cottage where we were staying and imagined I was Honey. When we got home, I lay in the garden reading and imagining Cherry sitting on the steps of the gypsy caravan listening to Shay's guitar; imagined Skye in her beautiful dresses and Summer dancing in the grass; Coco riding Caramel and planning how to save the world. This summer has changed my mind about books completely and taken me to Tanglewood to share in the drama.

Luisa says:
My summer has truly been a Cathy Cassidy fest! It all kicked off when I met Cathy at  a brilliant vintage afternoon tea event in the Midlands Hotel in Manchester with my best friend Grace. Since then I have read the books over and over. After that I had fun entering the CC 'Selfie/Shelfie' comp and got a runners up place, which was cool! I went on holiday to Wales and took the whole Chocolate Box series and Dizzy… I read Coco Caramel for the first time and it is now my favourite book! I spent my spare time doodling CC imagery and made some beach-art images of the books by drawing in the sand. When I got home I used an app called Face Q to make cartoon characters of the Chocolate Box characters, which you can see in the picture. First I created Cherry; I gave her a Japanese fan like the one her mother gave her and I love the cute bunches in her hair! Honey was next with long blonde hair, a flower headband and the maths book she uses when studying with Tara and Bennie.  Coco wears her panda hat and a rabbit t-shirt to reflect her views against animal testing; she is holding one of the ducks. Charlotte is holding a paintbrush as she used to be an art student. Skye wears a vintage hat and sailor outfit and ballerina Summer has hair in a neat bun and a baggy pink t-shirt as always! Last but not least, Paddy holds a cake decorated with his own handmade, fair-trade truffles! I loved creating the characters… it was fun thinking about the little details that make each character unique!

Holly says:
This has been a Cathy Cassidy summer for me because I discovered Cathy's books for the first time at my local library. I really enjoyed each one, but my favourite is Summer's Dream because it tackled a real-life problem and made me see how people in that situation might actually feel. Reading the books made me want to find out more about Cathy, so I went to her website and also found the Facebook Fanpage. I did the quizzes at the end of the books and on the website and learned a lot more about Cathy and her books. One day I spotted a competition on the Facebook Fanpage… I had to do a quiz on DREAMCATCHER and then post on the page. My name was randomly picked from a hat and I won a CC goody bag - it had a keyring, a signed photo, a poster and some chocolate. Finding Cathy's books and winning the goody bag was a real highlight of the summer… I plan to go on reading, so maybe it will be a Cathy Cassidy winter, too!

Cathy says:
I love these stories… it's great to see how the books touch people's lives! Have YOU had a Cathy Cassidy summer? In what way? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Monday, 8 September 2014

TEEN BOOKS TO LOOK OUT FOR!

Three author friends tell all about their new YA books… perfect for any older readers to check out! 

Sophia Bennett says:
THE CASTLE is a story about a girl called Peta Jones who has a special connection with her dad. He's an army hero who is supposedly dead, but Peta doesn't believe it. When she gets a strange warning phone message, Peta is convinced her father is alive and trying to contact her. She'll do anything to contact him; any stupid, dangerous thing. Peta is the girl I always was in my head, growing up with a father in the army, surrounded by soldiers who did dangerous stuff for a living. I was convinced I could do as well as them if I had to. It's also been influenced along the way by a lot of brave teenagers in the news. One of my all-time favourite words is semi-autobiographical, and this book is more of it than you might think. My own father, I might hasten to add, is a lot less dangerous to know than Peta's ever was. I have never been kidnapped on a superyacht. Beyond that, you'll just have to guess...

Keris Stainton says:
I have written four books for teenagers, in between home-educating my two sons (which mostly means breaking up fights about whose turn it is to play on Minecraft). I've written since I was a teenager - I sued to write fanfiction (mainly about George Michael) before it was called fanfiction. Now I write the books I wanted to read as a teenager - romantic, funny and, hopefully, real. (No George Michael, though!) My latest book, STARRING KITTY, is the first in a series about three friends - Kitty, Sunny and Hannah. In this first book, Kitty is dealing with her mum's serious illness while also working out her feelings for another girl. And it's set at the seaside! I'm really proud of it. The next book, SPOTLIGHT ON SUNNY, is out in February 2015 and features London, a cute boy and a life-changing ride on a skyflyer!

Keren David says:
I started work as a journalist when I was eighteen years old, as a messenger girl for a national newspaper. My first book for teens was WHEN I WAS JOE, about a boy in witness protection, and these days I live in London with my family and two greedy guinea pigs. My new book is called SALVAGE. It's about a brother and sister who were separated when they were small children. Cass was adopted into a wealthy family and given an upbringing full of privilege, while Aidan grew up in foster care and children's homes, with a brief return to their birth mother. When Cass is sixteen, Aidan contacts her through Facebook - SALVAGE is the story of their reunion.

Cathy says:
These three books are must-reads! I've already devoured THE CASTLE (a fast-paced adventure thriller) and STARRING KITTY (a warm, fun teen friendship story) which means that SALVAGE will be next on the list… it sounds intriguing! COMMENT BELOW if you've read any of these books or want to recommend another cool teen read!