Monday, 24 April 2017

JADE: APRIL SHOWERS!

We've had a great April, but life isn't always sunshine - reader Jade has some ideas for how to handle those April showers!

Jade says:
Everytime April rolls around it's the same. Flowers come out, the sun peeks from behind a cloud and I fool myself that it's summer. I start planning picnics and trips to the seaside, and then the sun vanishes and the rain sets in, and I realise that I've fallen for it again. This year I am determined not to let a few spring rain showers stop me from feeling upbeat and happy... I have a plan, and I am willing to share it!

* Rain showers are a part of spring, so don't try to fight them... dress the part! Have a light raincoat packed away in a bag that you can slip on when it's wet, and carry on as usual! I've got a yellow one with toggles that looks a bit like something a fisherman might wear - it makes me feel happy every time I put it on! Wellies and umbrellas are great too... get out there an conquer the elements!

* Wellies are essential if there's a real downpour because there is nothing worse than soggy feet. Choose a bright, cheery pair! Rekindle your childhood days and jump in puddles, splash through streams and squelch through the mud... once you're wet, you're wet, so just go for it and enjoy the sensations! You can always warm up later with a hot bath or shower!

* Take your camera or smartphone out and capture some beautiful images for Instagram or Snapchat. Raindrops on glass or on the shiny surface of a leaf, rain splashing into puddles, the bright colours of umbrellas and wellies... make it a project!

* Take a walk in the woods if you really want to be outside and it's too wet - the trees will shelter you from the worst of it, and woodlands are so pretty at this time of year. There's something magical about woods in the rain! Equally, watching the rain fall onto a lake, river or canal is very soothing.

* Ever tried singing in the rain? Or dancing? It has to be done! Once you get going it is exhilarating and funny... and addictive! Turn your face up to the sky and let the rain slide over your skin. It's supposed to be really good for the complexion!

* Too wet to go out? Don't be sad, think of the summer flowers being watered! This is a perfect day for snuggling inside with a good book, your favourite hot drink and a head full of dreams... and remember, those sunny days will be back soon!

* If all else fails, watch a movie... Singing In the Rain if you love musicals and retro stuff with a rainy theme, or just pick Finding Nemo or The Little Mermaid for watery fun and loads of nostalgia!

Cathy says:
This is a great list from Jade... I will definitely take some advice from this on a rainy day! Do YOU like the rain or do you let it get to you? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 21 April 2017

TAYLOR: THE BOOK THAT HELPED ME...

Reader Taylor explains how CC books have helped him to battle an eating disorder...
Trigger warning: mentions of anorexia/ bulimia in this post.

Taylor says:
This sketch is something I drew recently to illustrate how I think Summer from SUMMER'S DREAM might have been feeling when her illness began to worsen - under pressure, afraid, lost, and with a very distorted view of her own body. I myself am (I think) now recovered from bulimia and borderline anorexia, and at my worst this image was how I felt - and what I saw when I looked in a mirror. I imagine Summer would be just the same.

I identify with Summer more than I would like to admit. It's almost as though we are the same person, except that I was - or am - an actor/ singer rather than a dancer. I actually had CC books recommended to me by my therapist, because they were what her daughter was reading. The books have really helped me to get through those horrible first few months of recovery.

SUMMER'S DREAM will always be a very special book for me. It - and the later books in the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series which follow Summer's story as she slowly recovers - is just an incredible and honest representation of an eating disorder and I am very grateful for that, because it made me feel less alone and that there was hope for me. Thank you, CC!

Cathy says:
Thank YOU Taylor for such an honest and open account of your struggle and what the book SUMMER'S DREAM has meant to you. I LOVE the drawing, which is very powerful, and I am so glad you're on the path to recovery now! Is there a CC book that has meant a great deal to YOU? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 17 April 2017

SARA: SHARE THE CHOCOLATE LOVE

Reader Sara looks at the history of chocolate and why we love it so much!


Sara says:
Cacao, the raw form of chocolate, has been cultivated for more than three millennia... the earliest evidence of its use os Mexico and Guatemala, where chocolate drinks were being used as long ago as 1900 BC. The Maya and Aztec peoples made xocolati (bitter water) into a drink from cacao beans that were fermented, dried and roasted.The resulting cocoa mass is the basis of the chocolate we know today.

The Maya and Aztec people used chocolate in ceremonies, and the cacao bean was used as a kind of currency. The first Europeans to come across chocolate were Christopher Columbus and the Spanish conquistador Cortes, and by the late 16th century chocolate was becoming popular in the Spanish court. It then spread slowly throughout Europe. In the 18th century, chocolate was very popular, but as a drink, not as a food. By the early 19th century, chocolate had been made less bitter and milk chocolate was invented, creating a much sweeter tasting product. Chocolate companies like Frys, Rowntrees, Cadbury's, Nestle and Lindt began to build the production of the chocolate that we know today.

Today, much chocolate production takes place in Africa and it has been shown that child labour is often used to pick the cocoa beans, and that human trafficking and slavery of the child workers is a big problem. It is worth paying extra for FAIR TRADE chocolate to know that it has been produced fairly. We still need to make sure that children are not being exploited so we in the west can have our sweet treats, but I think there is still quite a long way to go - this is the bitter side of chocolate, but it is important to know how our chocolate is made and to let the companies know that we care.

Chocolate is a source of flavonoids and alkaloids which have some health benefits, but too much chocolate is not good as most types are high in fat and sugar. Chocolate is a big part of many celebrations (such as Easter!) and is one of the most popular treat foods we have. Could you live without it? I'm not sure I could!

Cathy says:
Sara raises some very good points about how our chocolate is made... perhaps we need a blog post all about the child workers? Which chocolate is YOUR favourite? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

EDIE: EASTER AROUND THE WORLD!

Reader Edie has written an eye-opening blog on how Easter is celebrated around the world... trust me, it's not all fluffy bunnies and chocolate eggs!


Edie says:
We celebrate Easter in the UK in a variety ways. We might go to church to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, or paint hard-boiled eggs, or hunt around the garden for chocolate eggs left by the 'Easter Bunny.' We might have a special family meal, bring spring greenery into the house and if we have spent Lent abstaining from a food like chocolate, cake or sugar, it will be back on the menu now. But what about Easter in other countries?

In SWEDEN, Easter is celebrated on Easter Saturday and the celebration is VERY different. It is believed that witches plan trouble in the run up to Easter and so children dress up as witches with painted red cheeks and painted on freckles and go from door to door handing out drawings and getting sweets in return, a bit like our Halloween!

In EASTERN EUROPE Easter eggs are ultra important and hard boiled eggs are dyed with onion skins and natural dyes and decorated with a variety of methods, including batik. Intricately painted eggs are an important decoration, and bonfires are lit for family and friends to celebrate together in an echo of old pagan rituals thought to bring light and protection to crops and people alike after a long, hard winter.

In ISRAEL, Easter is a very special occasion and pilgrims holding crosses follow the path taken by Jesus on his journey to his death on Calvary. The procession is known as the Way of The Cross. In the PHILIPPINES public whippings and mock crucifixions take place, while children dress as angels to walk through the town at dawn to celebrate the resurrection. COSTA RICA, MEXICO and SRI LANKA all stage dramatic recreations of the crucifixion and resurrection.

Lastly, in POLAND and SLOVAKIA, Easter Monday is a traditional day for water fights! Nobody is safe on 'wet Monday' and the tradition is thought to be linked to old pagan fertility rites. And of course, many countries around the world are not Christian and so do not celebrate Easter at all, but they often have spring festivals of their own!

Cathy says:
This is great... something to think about while munching your way through all that chocolate, anyway! Do YOU have a favourite Easter tradition? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

THE TEENAGE GUIDE TO FRIENDS!

My fab author friend NICOLA MORGAN has a brand new book out... I asked her to tell you all about it!
Nicola says:
Hello to Cathy's lovely readers! This might be the first time a non-fiction book has been on DREAMCATCHER? I love fiction and non-fiction equally, though it has to have a topic I want to read about, otherwise I'm not going to be engaged by it. So let me tell you why you might be interested in THE TEENAGE GUIDE TO FRIENDS!

It's about the science of friendship. (Science? Me? My school science teachers would be amazed!) Anyway, TTGF explains why people behave the way they do. You know when someone is mean or annoying you? Maybe a friend says something undermining? How you don't feel so comfortable with some people as others? Or a friendship seems to be falling apart? Or perhaps there's group behaviour going on. It feels horrible - until you realise it's most likely not about you: everyone has stuff going on in their heads that makes them behave the way they do. There are a million reasons why people act the way they do. And only one of those possible reasons is you, so probably isn't you!

When we understand this, we can stop beating ourselves up and become empowered to control what we can, feel better about ourselves, walk away from situations or stand up to them: whichever we want. You can't change people and you shouldn't have to. Just focus on your real friends. And one good friend is all you need - it's not about how many friends, but how good your friend is.

Sometimes you might find yourself surrounded by all the wrong people and it's really hard to find friends. If that's how it is for you now,, look ahead to brighter times. Everything changes. THE TEENAGE GUIDE TO FRIENDS has loads of explanations, some science and psychology and lots of tips and strategies.I hope it will make you feel better about yourself and your friends!

TOP TIP: Do something nice for a friend today! It can be something really small and it doesn't have to cost money. They'll feel good and so will you!

Cathy says:
I know from my letters, emails and messages that lots of you struggle with friendships, so I think this book is something we could all do with! I believe in the message so much that I wrote the foreword for it... give it a try, I don't think you'll regret it! Do YOU have good friends or have you struggled to form close connections with others? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

SOPHIE: I'LL LOVE MUSIC FOREVER...

Reader Sophie explains why music is such a big part of her life, and what it means to her...


Sophie says:
I cannot remember when I first played piano, but I must have been around the age of five. My mum taught me the piano until I was eleven, so during this time I didn't achieve any grades or perform much, just played for myself. I loved - and still do - the feeling of achievement of mastering a piece, especially a difficult one. When I was seven, my primary school music teacher gave an assembly on the different instruments he taught, and I decided I'd like to play the flute, as my mum once had. Mum thought I should consider the saxophone, something she'd always wanted to play, but I had chosen the flute and that was that.

I played both instruments without much focus until I reached high school. There, I suddenly had more opportunities to play to an audience. I began having piano lessons with a teacher so I could start doing grades, and played in several concerts over the next few years. I achieved grade five in flute and grade three in piano, and I'm currently in Year Eleven and working on my music coursework for GCSE. I love it! I am almost always sat at the piano playing something - I tend to annoy the other s in the group as they're sick of hearing me play the same pieces!

Playing flute and piano is a great stress reliever. I often go to the piano to play after a long day at school. I don't always practise the pieces I'm working on, I just play what I feel like playing, sometimes a classical piece and other times the chords for a pop song I enjoy. Playing two instruments from a young age has given me a great work ethic. The only way I improve ay a piece is by playing a small phrase again and again, until i can play it in my sleep. I transfer this tactic to other things, too. I study best for tests by doing loads to practise questions, and when acting or dancing I go over small chunks over and over until I get it right. I know this will help me in the future, which is very reassuring.

I'm not sure what the future holds for me, but I don't plan to play either flute or piano professionally. I don't even know if I will take A level music next year; it depends on which career path I choose to take. However I DO know that I will not stop playing, and that I shall love music forever.

Cathy says:
I love this! Sophie's passion makes even a diehard non-muso like me want to pick up an instrument and make some music! Do YOU have a secret musical skill? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

MARIE: SMALL ISLAND...

Reader Marie talks about her hopes and fears for the years ahead now that Britain has come out of the EU...

Jodie says:
My dad used to joke that I had the soul of a nomad, just like him. As a child we travelled a lot and once lived for a year in Italy and two and a half years in Greece. I grew up thinking the whole of Europe was my home... I have an Italian grandmother and we still have lots of friends in Greece. When we lived there we were on an island called Crete and we ran a small hotel and taverna for tourists. So I grew up knowing how to speak Italian and Greek, and then at school in the UK I learned French too. Languages fascinate me, and I knew that I wanted to study them at uni.

I think because my parents were adventurous and liked to travel, I always thought that was normal and it was something I knew would be a huge part of my life. I imagined growing up to live in different places, like Andalusia in Spain or the Basque country, and the Greek islands and Albania and places like Serbia and Latvia that I had never visited but just sounded so cool. I thought if I studied languages I could be a translator, like the people at the European Parliament in Brussels who translate everything the MEPs say, or maybe work in the tourist industry.

I'm studying A levels now, in Spanish and French, but my plans have fallen apart. I wanted to study at a uni where part of my languages course could take place in a uni in Europe, but some of these courses may not happen now because of Brexit. My brother's girlfriend is Spanish so I am worried she won't be allowed to stay here, and my sister works in Italy and we don;t know if she will be allowed to stay there. Lots of people at school say it's silly to worry and things will go on as before, but I think things have changed. I used to look at Europe and feel a part of it, and now I don't, and I don't even know if my grandmother can stay here in the UK because everyone is talking about sending immigrants back.

I used to be European, and I felt like the culture and life and rainbow colour of Europe was mine. Now it seems I live on a small, grey island which is scared of everyone else and is pushing away its closest friends and neighbours like a moody child. I don't recognise the place I live anymore, and the future I had planned is all ruined.

Marie is a pen-name - the writer of this blog asked to be anonymous.

Thank you to amazing young photographer Ellie for the fab images; and to brilliant model Niamh!

Cathy says:
I've had quite a few messages and emails from readers worried about how Brexit may affect their futures, so Marie is not alone in being concerned. Her blog is moving and poignant, and I very much hope that she will still get to have the future she dreamed of, and that her family can stay together. Has Brexit made an impact on YOU? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.