Friday, 22 August 2014


Another in our series looking at readers all around the world… we meet Eilish, who lives in beautiful New Zealand!

Eilish says:
I live in New Zealand, in a city called Dunedin; it's only a ten minute drive in either direction to find luscious green farms and hidden forests all around, even in the main part of town. I live with my mum and stepdad in a small old-style villa, over a hundred years old (impressive in NZ terms!). I have an older brother 'flatting' which is a big thing for students in Dunedin, and is basically a party, 24/7.

I'm in my final year at high school and honestly, I love it. Schooling here is varied - we have the choice of single sex or unisex school, though most have uniforms. All the schools I've been to are very relaxed and seem similar to what I've read about UK schools. My school are fine with individuality, so I can't even count the amount of students with dreadlocks and funky coloured hair and piercings. This isn't the case in all schools, though! My last school was a bit stricter.

In New Zealand we have adapted traditional dishes from all around the world rather than having our own (unless countless barbeques during the summer count!) We do, however, have a delicious dessert, the Pavlova… created for a ballerina in NZ, to replicate her dress… although Australia tried to claim this as its own. It's basically a sweet, sugary baked giant meringue covered in cream and fresh fruit, and seen on most families tables at Christmas. I am holding some in the picture! Another food we have here is the cheese roll - basically, grilled cheese, rolled up like sushi, sold in cute cafes or made for school fundraisers… it's mouthwatering! It's quite local - people on the North Island don't even know of its existence!

Clothing is similar to the rest of the western world, except in winter, where fashion shouldn't apply. We dress for warmth! It can be pretty cold in my city - it even snowed today!
Up in the North Island it is a bit warmer, though! The traditional Maori clothing is very beautiful, but it's only worn for demonstrations and ceremonies, not on your average trip to town! New Zealand is a traditionally Christian country, yet there are many religions here, and all are accepted. I didn't grow up in a Christian house, yet in my teens I choose to go to church, which I find fun. We have free pizza, dancing, mosh pits and on youth nights we play many fun, messy games… if you're not at the rowdy rugby, that is! Rugby is a big thing in New Zealand, and most of the country supports the All Blacks. Matches are a big thing and a real party to watch.

As well as the usual festivals of Easter, Christmas etc, we have a holiday called Waitangi Day at the start of the school year in early February. It marks when the Maori and the New Settlers made their peace and is typically represented  as a day of thankfulness with family and friends. These days, farming is a big part of NZ life - we have seven sheep for every one person here! If you live on a farm you have to help out, both before and after school… I'm glad I'm a townie! New Zealand wasn't always farmed - before the New Settlers came, when it was just Maori, it was covered in forest; and before that, in the time of the Moriori, the settlers before the Maori, it was the same. We have some absolutely gorgeous forests here and great scenery and plants, as well as gleaming coastlines. I love the powhutakawa tree with its bright red blossom and the kowhai tree with its yellow flowers. It really is a very beautiful country - I am sure you will have seen glimpses of the breath taking mountains while watching the Lord of the Rings films which were made here!

Before the Maori and the New Settlers made peace, there were many fights as the Maori did not want all the land to be taken over and burned into farms… they felt it was their land first. A series of agreements were made and we now live together in peace - I am very keen to keep it this way, and very proud of our Maori culture. My ambition is to join the New Zealand Navy, part of the defence force, do i can do all I can to help protect this country, its gorgeous waters and lands. I could not be more proud of New Zealand - words can't describe its beauty, it has to be seen.

Cathy says:
Eilish makes New Zealand really come to life - it sounds magical! I visited once a few years ago and loved it too… but now I am determined to visit again one day! COMMENT BELOW to share your reaction to Eilish's blog or to let me know if YOU would like to blog about life where YOU live!

Thursday, 21 August 2014


Reader Caitlin describes her summer of experiments with hair colour… would YOU dare?

Caitlin says:
This summer I wanted to dye my hair a bit of an oddball colour. Knowing that semi-permanent colours are not the easiest things to get out of your hair, I wanted a temporary colour - plus, my school uniform rules insist that hair is a 'natural' colour, so if yours is similar and you feel like experimenting, I suggest you go for temporary too!

I was looking for a colour in Boots and found a new brand of temporary colour called Bleach; they didn't have a lot of choice, but back home I went onto the website and read some reviews and drooled over all the amazing colours. In the past, hair colour has not been my best friend. I once dyed my hair with henna, like DIZZY at the end of the book, on her mum's last day. The packet said the henna would last for eight weeks… but it stayed in my hair for months! I asked my mum if she was OK with my dyeing my hair and what she thought about the colours I'd found. She agreed, and the next day we went to buy the colour along with some hair toner; this lightens your hair without totally stripping out the colour. I chose a dye called 'Washed Up Mermaid' because let's face it, secretly there is only one girl who DOESN'T want to be a mermaid and that is The Little Mermaid.

Mum agreed to help with the dyeing as it's a pain to dye your own hair. We applied the toner, let it sit for the recommended time and then rinsed it off. We then applied the colour. We left it on for slightly longer than the suggested time to be sure the colour stuck. Sadly, the first attempt didn't really come out well but a second attempt next day worked - the colour was a silvery-green and I was as mermaid-y as anyone could wish! The colour lasted a month, and then I removed it by applying dandruff shampoo to dry hair and rinsing it out.

I was soon fed up with my natural hair again, so I chose a new colour and picked up two bottles of it. I didn't need to buy more toner this time, as the effects of the toner are quite long-lasting. We repeated the process and the colour was very strong and vibrant… I dried it with a hairdryer for that Cookie Monster look! When I went to visit my gran, she thought the blue colour was my attempt to support the 'yes' vote for Scottish independence. I nodded and let her think it was a political stance and not just a thirteen year old with a love of strange hair…

Caitlin used BLEACH brand temporary dye, available from Boots.
(Note: always follow hair dye instructions carefully and do a strand test to make sure you are not allergic to the colour.)

Cathy says:
Would YOU ever dye your hair? If so, would you go blonde, auburn, black… or something more rainbow-hued? What would your school say if they saw it? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


We asked readers to tell us about their BEST holiday ever… and we got some pretty cool answers!

Pippa says:
My fave holiday was when I went to Cyprus in 2009. We went for two weeks, one week to a hotel in Limassol and one to a villa in Pissouri, and we went to the beach every single day. The temperatures were over forty degrees celsius! The hotel and villa were both amazing and the Greek food was awesome. We went to the Fasouri Waterpark, the biggest one on the island, and that was one of my best bits of the holiday… but every single bit of it was great, from the aeroplane ride to just hanging out in the Tortoise Garden Cafe, which is where I am in the picture. My dad grew up in Cyprus so we go there quite a bit, but this summer will be the first time we've been back in five years… and I CANNOT WAIT!!!
Latifa says:
Last year we went on holiday to Lisbon, which was amazing - we spent most of the summer holidays there and toured around the city. The day I remember most was the day we had a picnic. My mum and her friends were holding this massive gathering in a place called Serafina Park… we had loads of traditional Indonesian food wrapped in foil, and loads of drinks; it was just so lovely and memorable. We explored the park and even picked some flowers. At one point we even took a picture of us all jumping high into the air… best holiday ever!

Rebecca says:
My favourite ever holiday was to Dubai… we went in October 2013. We stayed for two weeks in a gorgeous hotel and everyone there was lovely. The sightseeing was amazing - we saw the highest building in the world and a monument called Burj Al Arab which is a seven star hotel! The best thing I did that holiday was swimming with dolphins… I will never forget it.

Charlotte says:
My best holiday ever was to Cardiff. It was really good fun - we went to the Cardiff Dr Who Experience and got to see the old TARDIS, the Daleks and the Weeping Angels. We also got to see the outfits which all the Doctors wore, along with the sonic screwdrivers and David Tennant's TARDIS interior. Then when you went upstairs, you saw all the character outfits, the Daleks and Davros, as well as the postage stamps for the 50th anniversary. I can't wait to go again after the makeover with all the new props!

Cathy says: 
I love these happy holiday stories! My summer holiday this year was a quick visit to a music festival; I loved it, but it was over way too soon! I have had some awesome holidays in the past, but not sure which one I'd choose as the best… hmmm! COMMENT BELOW to tell me about YOUR best summer holiday… share the love!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


Flower crowns are everywhere this summer… but can you wear them? Our style reporter Manda checks out what the shops have on offer to help you choose wisely!

Pic one…
Manda says:
Possibly my favourite out of all of these… I just loved the colours! They remind me a bit of crocuses in springtime! The little leaves make a nice contrast, too. I always like when flower crowns have leaves and not just flowers - it looks more authentic and natural that way!

Cathy says:
Perfect colours for Manda… lots of summery flower-power without being too in-your-face! A perfect pick for any occasion!

Pic two…
Manda says:
Not really one of my favourites! The colours are a little bit plain for my tastes and I think I might have liked it better if the flowers were more evenly spread around the whole thing… but it's still pretty! I might be wrong, but I can kind of picture it looking better on someone with bigger/ curlier hair...

Cathy says:
The colours really suit Manda and the flowers are focused in the centre of the crown for more of a tiara effect, which might suit you if you don't think you can carry off a full-on flower crown. There's just a whiff of the bridesmaid about this one, though, so don't team it with pastel frills or you'll be mistaken for a flower-girl!

Pic three…
Manda says:
I kind of like this, but I probably wouldn't wear it too often purely because of the size of the thing! The colours are nice and it could work for festival wear or fancy dress (if you're being some sort of floral… queen… person? Or, like the spirit of summer or something! Or even a chocolate fairy, perchance!) For everyday wear, though… a bit too much, even for me!

Cathy says:
Great colours for Manda, but this is a dramatic flower-crown and it requires confidence to wear it well! One to save for a special occasion when dressing up is part of the fun!

Pic four...
Manda says:
I really quite like the shape of the flowers and the colour id lovely… but at the same time, the idea of green flowers doesn't seem entirely natural! I might possibly like it better if there was at least one more colour to go with the green, just for variety, but still… it's pretty!

Cathy says:
Manda, like the style-star she is, has been very complimentary about this, but… I can't agree. No, no, no… the colours don't compliment Manda's complexion and the flowers are verging on the triffid-like… this is not a winner for me. It reminds me of the hideous flowery rubber swimming caps you used to get back in the 70s and 80s… shudder! Even your Great Aunt Enid might draw the line at this...

Pic five…
Manda says:
I like this one because of the pure hippieness of it! It wasn't my favourite, but it made an interesting change, and the colours are really nice too. And it's not too loud or over the top, so could easily be worn for all sorts of different occasions!

Cathy says:
The perfect compromise if you're not sure about the flower-crown craze… a cute, simple, hippy-chick headband. This could be a good buy as it will last long after the flower-crown fashion has faded and gone, and it goes with just about anything. Just add sunshine for instant summer sparkle!

Cathy says:
Your turn… which flower crown do YOU like best? COMMENT BELOW to cast your vote… are there any fans of the green one out there? 

Sunday, 17 August 2014


Reader Miriam combines her love of crafts with her love of reading - to make this super-cute SWEET HONEY necklace! Read on to find out how YOU can do the same!

Miriam says:
I've always loved craft - almost as much as I love reading - so I thought it would be a great idea to make book necklaces! A few years ago, I made something similar to these, but they were just mini books, badly coloured in felt tip pen. This idea evolved from that one, but looks much better - and it's super-easy!

To start, print out a small book cover. If you can find a picture of the blurb or back of the book then print that too and put it next to the cover; otherwise just place two front covers next to each other. Next, fold this in half. For the inside pages, cut and fold white pieces of paper approximately the same size. Then we start to assemble the book. Rub the fold of one of the white pages in glue and then fit that into the crease of the cover. Cover the fold of the next piece in glue and place that in the middle, building up until you feel you book is thick enough. You can leave this as a cute mini book to decorate your room, or continue on to turn it into a necklace!

To make a necklace, use a biro or a large darning needle to pierce a hole in the top-middle of the book. Carefully push through thread or jewellery wire (available at ) and begin to thread on beads. For a very cool look, use beads that match the colour scheme of the cover. Tie a knot where you stop beading at each end and make a final knot to complete the necklace… or, alternatively, use a clasp -  Ta-dah! A book necklace… or a booklace!

I chose to do SWEET HONEY as it is the latest book in the Chocolate Box Girls series, and I love the plot/ storyline! Have fun making your necklace!

Cathy says:
WOW… I absolutely LOVE this brilliant idea! It really does seem simple to do, but looks so cute and professional… well done Miriam! COMMENT BELOW if you think you might try this idea, or want to share a crafty idea of your own!

Saturday, 16 August 2014


Readers open up about what it's like to try and cope when every day is a struggle...

Laura says:
My anxieties began when I was eight... I developed an irrational fear of being sick. At first it was a fear of nausea and of others vomiting, but then it escalated to a fear that I would be sick. It was so extreme I'd feel ill just thinking about it, which obviously made me even more terrified. Over the years, many things made the phobia worse. In Primary Five I went on a school trip to York, and later I had to go on a five hour car trip to a wedding. I'm at high school now, and to begin with I was very anxious about the bus journey, but I am a little better now. All of this has served to make me stronger and more determined than ever that I'll never give up.

Mairead says:
I've had Depression for three years. People think it's just that you feel a bit sad or low, but it's much more than that - you feel empty, worthless and numb. All day. Every day. It's a constant fight against yourself. People say to me, 'Why don't you just smile more?' and I really wish it were that easy. It feels impossible to look on the bright side of any situation, but I am slowing making progress and feeling a little more optimistic. When I hit rock bottom, I did consider suicide... but I also began to see that things couldn't get any worse and that maybe they could actually get better. I've had my ups and downs, but that's what recovery is all about. I want to let anyone with depression know that their life really IS precious and worth living. Things may be tough now, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Lyra says:
I wish I'd never, ever heard of self-harm. I began because there was some very tricky stuff going on in my life back then and it felt like a way of coping with very difficult thoughts and feelings. Once I started cutting I couldn't stop; by the time I was thirteen I was self-harming every day, and people noticed that I was wearing long sleeves all the time and spending a lot of time in my room alone. By then, though, it felt like nothing anyone said or did could make a difference. I saw psychologists but I always put on an act with them so nobody could work me out. I stopped about six years after I started, though I do relapse at times of great stress, and I'm seeing a great psychologist now. My advice would be please, please, don't EVER self-harm... it's not worth the guilt, pain and despair, and sometimes the scars are there for life. If you are self-harming, you DON'T have to deal with it alone... it sounds scary, but if you don't face it it will get a whole lot scarier. Talk to an adult or call ChildLine on 0800 1111 but do get help - don't throw away the best years of your life.

Sarah says:
I have felt unhappy and outside of things for as long as I can remember. At six, I had some problems controlling my emotions and so I'd bite myself a lot as it helped me to feel more in control. I did this all through primary school, especially when I was trying to cope with feelings of anger. I'm very superstitious and when my grandpa died when I was eight I thought it was my fault because I had smashed a mirror not long before - I thought I'd brought seven years bad luck on everyone. I was teased a lot at school and one particular teacher put me down constantly, telling me I'd never amount to anything. By Year Eight, the pressure to be perfect was too much and I began to self-harm and restrict my food. My parents are ex military and very strict and I knew they wouldn't understand, so I've tried to hide it from them but my dad found out and I had to promise to stop. I am trying, but it's very hard, even with the support of my friends. I want to get better - I want to show people that it's possible, but I know that I still have a long way to go.

Names have been changed and pic posed by model. Illustration by reader Caitlin.

Cathy says:
If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, self-harm or eating issues, please don't try to cope alone; tell a parent, teacher or best of all your family doctor. Websites like can help too. COMMENT BELOW to share your story or to offer support to the girls in this feature.


Another in our series about cool mums and daughters… we meet Hazel and Elizabeth!

Elizabeth (mum) says:
I moved to England from America just before Hazel was born and have been a full-time mom since her birth. We do things slightly different from some families, as Hazel has never been to school - I wanted my children to have the gift of learning what they want, when they want and how they want to, so we home educate. I feel it is important to provide as many opportunities to explore new things, so we attend as many outings as we can, whether to museums, historical sites, concerts, plays or science lectures. I knew early on that the two of us approached things in very different ways, so I have had to adjust my thinking to fit her needs.
It may seem silly, but Hazel amazes me every day; she's such a focused, talented and intelligent young lady. I admit to crying publicly at her musical talent - what else can you do when a grief-stricken eight year old stands up at her grandmother's funeral and plays 'Amazing Grace' on the flute? Where she got the courage to do that, I still don't know.
We all hope for the best for our children. My hope is that Hazel is happy and that whatever she does in the future brings her joy. If you asked her, I think she'd tell you she'll be a much sought after flautist who just happens to be a distinguished author in her spare time!

Hazel (daughter) says:
I'm not sure I'd say 'inspired', but my mom has helped me to become who I am today. She recognised what I would love and has done all she can to give me the best possible life! I love having her at home all the time. It's all I've ever known, but it makes me feel comfortable, knowing that she's always there for me. In some of the mother/daughter articles on DREAMCATCHER, I've been surprised at how many moms and daughters have mentioned fighting with each other; Mom and I have never fought, and I don't think we're about to start!
Mom and I share a love of books and history, but otherwise we are quite different. Mom is easy-going and had many different jobs before becoming a full-time mom, trying lots of different things; while I am pretty fixed in what I want to do and be. My dreams for the future are to grow up and become a successful musician, travelling the world with an orchestra… while also being an author! I love reading, writing and music, so it seems like the perfect future! Also, while travelling the world, I will hopefully get a lot of inspirations for my stories!

Cathy says:
It's fascinating to hear about the strong mother-daughter bonds between Elizabeth and Hazel… and how home education has worked so well for both of them! COMMENT BELOW to share your feedback or to give YOUR mum a shout-out!