Monday, 12 October 2015


Reader Hazel got the chance to live on another continent for over a year… find out how she settled in the USA and what she'll miss about it now that she's home again!

Hazel says:
Living in California for 16 months was the best experience of my life. As my family knew that Dad was only working there temporarily, we treated it as a very long holiday. We lived in a huge rental house, drove a rental car and joined few groups apart from music lessons, so it was easier to travel. We visited eleven states and saw many natural wonders on our road trips, such as the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Crater Lake, Natural Arches, the Rocky Mountains and volcanoes like Mt St Helen's. We also saw some amazing wildlife: grey whales with their calves, golden eagles, wild buffalo, elephant seals, dolphins, overwintering monarch butterfly colonies and even osprey!

Although I had a brilliant time in Cali, I had a life waiting in England that I was eager to get back to. When the movers were packing up my family's belongings at the end of our stay, it felt like I was in a dream. As did driving to San Francisco airport, even with twelve suitcases in the boot! But when the plane touched down in London after the long flight, I couldn't help feeling excited.

At first, moving back to our old house, everything felt strange. It seemed so small, and the roads seemed utterly tiny. Now, after two weeks back home, it all feels completely normal, like we never left. We kept some furniture in the house while we were away, so although the bulk of it - and all our books - will take at least another month to get here, we have enough to live with. My brother and I are home educated so we don't have to worry about returning to school, but we do many activities here. I have been asked to join three orchestras in September and I'll be able to go on with my music lessons, badminton and Irish dancing. My brother and I have already started going to a conservation group that we used to go to and I am finally going to set up a book blog, something I've wanted to do for months.

At first I thought it might be hard to reintegrate with old classes and join new ones, but I think I've returned home slightly wiser, and I am confident everything will work out fine. I'm looking forward to making new friends, as well as spending time with those who always stayed in touch! Seeing the different cultures in America was interesting - I learnt a lot about American history and literature. I'll miss the hot Californian sunshine, the huge libraries, the sweet fruit and my amazing piano teacher. But I missed so much about England too… our wonderful neighbours, my two great friends, my flute teacher, the garden birds and the food… real pork sausages, crunchy apples and edible chocolate! Living in California was an experience I will never forget, but I am truly happy to be home.

Hazel wrote a post for DREAMCATCHER about moving to Cali in May 2014… click on the link if you'd like to read more!
Cathy says:
Wow… what an experience! I love Hazel's story, and as for those pictures… stunning! Have you ever dreamed of living somewhere faraway? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 11 October 2015


Readers debate the dangers of social networks and internet bullying - and try to understand why and how it happens...

Wendy says:
Because you have your username and device does not mean you can say rude, unkind and spiteful stuff to people on chats, blogs, Instagram and other social networks. If your parents saw what you put on social networks, would you be ashamed? Embarrassed? If yes, then why do you think it is OK to put someone down on the net and not directly? If you've said something cruel to someone online, would you say it to their face?

Kitty says:
I think people get brave when nobody can see who they are. I understand that a bit - I am very shy in real life and I like social media because I can feel more confident there. What I don't get is how nasty some people can get, and for very little reason. Almost everyone I know online has been trolled or bullied online at some point. And you get drawn into it… and the whole thing gets out of hand.

Emma says:
I agree, Kitty. I hate to admit it but this has happened to me, and I have ended up lashing out and actually saying things I am ashamed of. I would never admit to this to my parents… I'm only saying it on here because I am allowed to use a false name for this debate and I don't have to have my photo published. At the time I thought I was fighting back against someone who was stirring up trouble with one of my friends, but in the end I went too far and when I looked back at the things I said I felt ashamed. I would never see myself as a bully, but when I read those things it did seem like bullying. I have never actually said sorry to the person concerned, either - it was the cousin of a girl at school. I kept my head down and hoped it would all die down and in the end it did.

Kitty says:
That's what I mean, things get out of hand very fast. It can just be a misunderstanding, or someone making a joke that you take the wrong way, and people can over-react. I've done that too, felt really upset over things that weren't meant to upset at all. So I can see how it can happen. Social media is like a minefield sometimes. You never know when something might blow up in your face.

Lynsey says:
Often it's something that has just gets blown up and really silly or nasty, but sometimes people are just out there looking for trouble. There are some vile people on the internet… professional trolls and bullies.

Emma says:
That's true. I've come across one or two!

Lynsey says:
To be fair I have had very positive experiences of social networks so far, but I have a friend who was targeted by an online troll who would constantly post horrible stuff on her Facebook and Twitter. We thought it was a boy at school but we couldn't prove it… to be honest it could have been anyone, and that was what was scary. She came off both those things in the end, which I thought was sad. I would have told a teacher, but she didn't want to, she was embarrassed.

Kitty says:
I think the best way to handle trolls and bullies is to ignore them. Delete, block, blank, report. Don't argue back. Ignore them and they'll give up - they want a reaction and if they don't get one they'll move on. And if you feel yourself getting angry or aggressive online, come off straight away… cyber bullying is taken very seriously now and you could find yourself in very real trouble.

Lynsey says:
I think also it is important to have a good sense of confidence in yourself, but that is not always easy when you are growing up and school doesn't always help. The thing is, is we all believed in ourselves and felt happy with the way we are, the bullying would not easily be able to dent that. I really think they should teach self confidence in school, because it would solve a lot of problems.

The powerful illustrations for this blog-debate were drawn by reader Courtney: many thanks for the awesome artwork!

Cathy says:
Lots of very interesting points here, and some good suggestions too. Have YOU ever come across internet bullies or trolls? Or even found yourself saying things you shouldn't have? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Saturday, 10 October 2015


Reader Rachel talks about her style choices… and how she has learned to blank the negative comments!

Rachel-Lee says:
The alternative scene has become more accepted in recent years and more popular in the media. Celebrities have joined in on some of the fashion statements, like the tattooed Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga and Katy Perry with her colourful hair… but this is a fashion trend I have been following since the age of thirteen. Over the years I have had an array of piercings and every hair colour imaginable. My favourite shoes were a beat-up pair of Doc Martens and my wardrobe was almost devoid of colour.

I'm now twenty-two and I have seventeen piercings and thirteen tattoos. I still love my Doc Martens and still wear mostly black, and at this moment my hair is blue and purple, but that could change! Looking this way has it's downside… people think it's OK to make various comments, like 'You'll never get a job looking like that'; 'What does your boyfriend think?'; and 'You'd look so much prettier without all those piercings.' In school, I had to wear plasters over the piercings. I got sent home once because my trousers were too baggy and were classed as a 'health and safety risk' and I was frequently made to go to the bathroom to wash off my eyeliner.

This all sounds very negative and for a while this bothered me. At seventeen I took out my piercings, dyed my hair brown and wore maroon tea dresses for a year. This changed my perspective… I realised I no longer felt like myself. The comments and stares stopped, but I also stopped smiling when I looked in the mirror and I was no longer excited when buying new clothes. I realised then that the most important thing wasn't the acceptance I got from others but the acceptance I had for myself.

Now I am older, I know that the negative comments from others were nonsense anyway. For example, I've had the same job for two years and they celebrate me for my work, not my looks. I have a boyfriend who loves the way I look and calls me pretty every day. I have amazing friends who like me for who I am. People are entitled to their opinions and if they think I'd look prettier without piercings, fine - but I love them, and it's my choice. People will always judge you; for how you look, how much money you have, how smart you are. It's a human instinct, how we classify things on a daily basis… but that doesn't mean you should let your opinions impact negatively on on others. Just because you think they look scary, or like a bad person… well, that doesn't mean they are! And if you are on the receiving end,  never let these judgements hurt you. As long as you can look in the mirror and smile and feel like yourself, everything else will come to you in time.

Cathy says:
I think Rachel-Lee's style looks awesome - and I also agree that others can be far too quick to judge people. Would YOU ever dare to follow an alternative style? And do YOU agree that following your own heart is an important part of growing up and learning to be yourself? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 8 October 2015


Skye Tanberry has been looking at that crystal ball again… will her predictions for OCTOBER ring true for YOU? Read on and see!

You sometimes worry about which choice to make, but this month is different… things are looking good for you. A perfect time to achieve the things you've always dreamed of!

Plan carefully this month… the more you prepare, the better things will go. A project at school is looking good, but go easy - jump in without thinking of others and you may find yourself making a BIG mistake.

Romance is in the air, but there may be setbacks ahead. Don't despair… the path of true love never runs smoothly, and if you're determined things should still work out. Eventually!

There may be a problem in your life that's been bugging you… but now is the time to face it and take action. Friends, family or even a trusted teacher can help you to get things sorted, so don't suffer in silence!

You are a real dreamer, but this month is all about facts and figures. Hard work is needed now to allow your creativity to bloom later… trust me, it will be worth it!

You're always friendly, open and trusting, but sometimes others take advantage of this. Don't be deceived by a friend who isn't all she seems… she may be motivated by jealousy, and that is something you don't need in your life.

Team work is the way forward right now… listen to other people's views and ideas and learn to compromise. This is the way forward, and it'll make you popular, too!

A friend may be struggling just now, and perhaps behaving oddly. Try to be there for her and give her space to talk… but if she needs adult help, don't be afraid to ask a trusted teacher for help.

Snuggling in with a hot chocolate and a good book is all you want to do this month. Why not jazz up your bedroom to make it extra cosy ready for winter? Family matters may get a little wobbly, but resist the temptation to wade in - things will sort themselves out eventually.

Plans may come unstuck this month, but that's OK… it's a sign that you may need to take a different track. Trying something different may open up a whole lot of new opportunities!

An unexpected discovery will change your views on someone close to you. Don't be too quick to judge - get all sides of the story before you decide how to react.

Things have been a little rocky lately, but don't panic - you're heading for calmer waters now. Time to relax and enjoy life a little… there is plenty of fun to be had for you this month!

Cathy says:
Does your horoscope sound accurate… or is it way off? COMMENT BELOW to share your feedback and let us know whether Skye is on the right tracks!


Reader Jessica explains how breaking a leg caused a whole lot of problems for her this summer…

Jessica says:
Breaking my leg was a real pain! I was on a school climbing frame and slipped in between two pieces of wood… my leg got caught and fell forward and basically bent the wrong way. I heard  a massive snap and I knew I was in trouble… it was broken, and badly. I broke my leg three weeks before the summer holidays and so I missed lost of things at school… I was supposed to have the lead role in our school play, Matilda the musical, but that didn't happen. Once school broke up, it got even worse… my family couldn't go on holiday because of me… it would have been too awkward. I couldn't do any activities either, so we all ended up staying at home a lot of the time. I felt quite bad that my family were missing out on a proper holiday because of me, but they didn't blame me at all. I guess these things happen.

I was due to get the cast off halfway through the holidays. I went along, thinking this was what would happen, but I was given an x-ray as the leg was still very tender and painful. Surprise surprise, they put me back in a cast and sent me off for another three weeks! This time when I went back, the x-ray was looking good and the cast came off - but I was given a leg brace to wear to support the leg. Arghhh! I still have that on now, and at least I am walking again… the brace comes off on Monday and I'll be back to normal then. Whatever normal is!

The moral of this story is… don't break your leg in the school holidays!

Cathy says:
Oh noooo! I used to imagine that breaking a bone would be quite exciting and cool, but I've changed my mind now! Have YOU ever broken a bone? COMMENT BELOW and tell is more! 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015


Reader Abbie has a dilemma for Honey Tanberry to solve this week on DREAMCATCHER's regular problem page. Will YOU agree with Honey's advice? Take a look and see…

Abbie says:
This is the year I choose my options for GCSE and I know that I want to take art, French and textiles… plus whatever else my teachers feel I will do well in. Obviously, English, maths and science are compulsory anyway. We were discussing this at the weekend and out of nowhere my dad announced that I can't take art because it will lead me nowhere, and that textiles isn't even a 'real' subject. I honestly thought he was joking because he knows how much I love art. My dream career is to be a fashion designer, or a fashion illustrator. Dad seems to think I should take economics and business studies and then do a law degree. I can't think of anything worse - this is his dream, not mine. I would be hopeless at those subjects and I have zero interest in being a lawyer. Mum won't stand up for me, though I think she is sympathetic. I can't see the point of school at all if I am going to be made to study subjects I loathe.

Honey says:
I think your dad needs a little bit of education! Who do you think designs the world we live in? The clothes, furniture, houses, textiles, appliances, cars, posters, books, films, computer games… even our toothbrushes and household cleaners are designed by people with an art background, and they get paid for it, too! Not everyone understands that creative subjects are a huge part of what makes Britain great, but your art teacher will know and can help your parents to see the possibilities. Art is a hugely flexible subject which can lead to all kinds of future careers. Talk to your teacher and make sure your dad knows how strongly you feel about this. The days of parents forcing us to study certain subjects or follow their choice of career are long gone. This is your life, and you only get one shot at it - speak up for what you want and what you love, before it's too late.

Cathy says:
I did an art degree and have also been an art teacher, and I know that it can be a subject many underestimate. I agree with Honey… Abbie should enlist the support of her teachers and get this sorted out. What do YOU think? Is Honey's advice spot on, or would you add more suggestions? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 5 October 2015


Want to break out of those old routines and do something new/ silly/ fun? We have all the ideas you'll ever need!

1. Invent and bake the coolest cake ever made… and share it with your best friends!
2. Re-design your bedroom… on a shoestring… then start making it look awesome!
3. Go to visit an elderly relative and ask them to tell you about their childhood… write it down so you don't forget!
4. Make a film of a typical day in your family!
5. Write the first chapter of a book… who knows, it could be a bestseller one day!
6. Volunteer at your local animal rescue…
7. Dig out the family photos from years gone by… and put them into an album!
8. Research and draw up your family tree!
9. Hold a clothes swap with friends to revamp your wardrobe!
10. Teach yourself to knit!
11. Get together with friends and work out a dance routine to your favourite pop track!
12. Take a long walk in the countryside with your camera… then come home and write a cool blog about what you've discovered!
13. Paint your nails and add glitter sprinkles…
14. Wear odd socks for the whole day…
15. Pack up a bag of tinned and packeted food to hand in to the foodbank… most good supermarkets have a collection point.
16. Hold an afternoon tea to raise funds for your fave charity!
17. Swap books with a friend and read something you'd never have tried otherwise!
18. Pick a bunch of flowers for your mum!
19. Take your dog for a walk through the park… or better still, a run! You'll both get healthy!
20. Catch a falling leaf - and make a wish!

Cathy says:
Are YOU planning to try any of these? COMMENT BELOW to tell us which ones appeal the most!