Saturday, 31 January 2015


Reader Kellie didn't understand why she was getting into trouble at school… until she was diagnosed with Petit Mal epilepsy...

Kellie says:
I don't know when the Petit Mal started, but it was probably when I was eight or nine. I started getting into trouble in class. I wasn't sure why, but my teacher told me I was insolent, had a bad attitude. Sometimes, in dance class, the teacher would shout at me for not paying attention, for stopping short in the middle of something.

All I knew was that sometimes I disappeared… just vanished, went away. I couldn't explain it and I thought it was just my imagination, because at nine years old I knew you couldn't really just 'vanish'. It was a strange feeling, but I imagined it was something that happened to everyone. Then one morning I was getting ready for school when the vanishing thing happened again; when I came back to myself, Mum was yelling at me, tearful, asking me why I was being so rude, so obstinate. It turned out she'd been asking me to get ready and I'd just been sitting there, staring, completely ignoring her. I started to cry too, and I tried to tell her about the vanishing, and that seemed to scare her. That afternoon she took me to the doctor's and he said he was pretty sure I had a thing called Petit Mal epilepsy.

Getting a proper diagnosis took ages. We had to wait for a series of hospital appointments, and by then I was getting 'vanishing' episodes twenty or more times every day. I'd be reading out in class, or doing something in gym, maybe talking to friends… and suddenly I'd go still and silent and blank. I'd 'wake up' and find people shaking me, or cross at being ignored. I wasn't allowed to take my cycling proficiency test because I blanked out in the middle of riding and fell; once I stopped in the middle of a zebra crossing and 'woke up' to find all the cars beeping at me. Pretty soon, I wasn't allowed to do anything in case I had a blank-out.

At the hospital, I was given an EEG test with wires and sensors stuck all over my head. The doctor flashed strobe lights at me and measured how many times I blanked out. Afterwards, I was told I had Petit Mal epilepsy and put on meds to control the episodes. I hated taking them… I was only nine and Mum had to make sure I remembered… but gradually, the blank-outs stopped. I didn't tell my friends what was happening… I thought they'd judge me or laugh at me. If I went on a sleepover, I'd hide in the bathroom and take my pills there. I just desperately wanted to be normal. I'm fourteen now, and two months ago I was able to come off the tablets. The doctors want to see if I have grown out of the Petit Mal, and so far it seems that I have. I am so relieved not to have to take the meds any more, and also very grateful that the blank-outs haven't come back, because I know more about epilepsy now and I understand how serious it can be. I'm glad it's all behind me now, but I'll never forget the days when I used to be able to disappear…

Picture posed by model Lois: many thanks!

Cathy says:
Do YOU have an illness or a medical condition that controls your life? COMMENT BELOW and tell us more…

Friday, 30 January 2015


Another in our fab series all about being a teen in a different decade… we talk to Rhoda, who who grew up in the sixties and early seventies… 

Rhoda says:
I was a teenager from 1965 to 1971… great years; Beatles years! I dyed my hair red because I wanted to be Jane Asher… she was a model and she was dating Paul Mc Cartney from the Beatles. All I ever wanted to do was draw fashion illustrations… it was the only thing I was interested in at school (apart from dying my hair red - and BOYS!)

I bought my first copy of Jackie magazine in 1966 - Sonny and Cher were on the cover. I found out that the magazine was published by DC Thomson, a company based near to where I lived, and I applied for a job and joined the firm in 1968, two months before my sixteenth birthday. I worked in the Art Department there for ten years… I did fashion drawings for Bunty and Nikki magazines, and beauty illustrations for Jackie and Romeo. I started modelling for Jackie mag soon after starting in the Art Department… and it carried on for the whole time I was there.
We would go away for the day, with a carload of clothes and have an absolute ball! Fab days indeed. We - the photographer and me and perhaps another model, and whoever was styling the fashion shoot - would go to fairs, churches, beaches, hotels… I even had my picture taken with a bull back in the early days. Yikes! I had never expected to be a model, but finding myself on the cover of a national magazine was pretty cool.In other ways, apart from being lucky enough to have the only job I'd ever wanted, I was just a typical 1960s teenager. I loved the glossy mags of the time, like Honey and Petticoat, and I was addicted to all things purple. I couldn't live without Mary Quant eye shadow in purple and yellow… worn together, of course! I did my eyes like Twiggy, the most famous 1960s model of all. As well as fashion and beauty and music, I loved discos and was crazy about dogs… and I even saved up £40 to buy my first car.
I LOVED my teenage years, but I think I'd love being a teenager just as much now - I don't think it's the times that are so memorable so much as the fact that you're a teenager! I am sure my granddaughter is having just as much fun! One thing I wasn't expecting was to wake up forty years down the line to find my photo on the front of our local newspaper, advertising 'Jackie the Musical'! Someone had made a musical of the legendary teen mag I had once modelled for, and used my picture in the publicity. The musical was amazing, and I now have a six-foot poster of myself under the bed… lol! Once I left the Art Department at DC Thomson, I carried on freelancing for them, drawing fashion pages for the various magazines  for a long, long time afterwards. Such happy memories… and unexpected opportunities. I'm lucky enough to have the photographs and magazines to remember it by, too!

Cathy says:
Rhoda's story is just awesome… all the more so, because I remember buying some of the issues which she modelled for! Can YOU imagine growing up in the 1960s? Or modelling for a national teen mag? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 29 January 2015


Reader Chloe has some cool ideas for how to adapt a basic truffle recipe to suit the sisters in the Chocolate Box Girls stories… how cool?

Chloe says:
I thought it would be fun to make some variations on a basic truffle recipe to suit each of the sisters in the Chocolate Box series. The ingredients are simple!

Basic Truffles:
200g chocolate
75ml double cream

Extra Ingredients:
Cherry Crush: A small pot of glace cheries
Marshmallow Skye: Lots of sweet, sugary mini marshmallows
Summer's Dream: Flaked almonds & raisins for a healthy truffle… or chopped fresh strawberries!
Coco Caramel: Caramel toffee, roughly chopped
Sweet Honey: A Crunchie bar, smashed into small pieces

To Make:
1. Break up the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl resting on a pan of simmering water; stir until the chocolate melts and add the cream until a glossy mixture is formed. Remove from heat.
2. Add in your chosen special ingredient and mix well.
3. Place mixture in fridge for 30 minutes so that the mixture begins to set but is still malleable; roll into truffle shapes.
4. Coat in cocoa powder and place in the freezer for a short blast to firm; abracadabra, they're done!

Another fab recipe for Chocolate truffles can be found on Cathy's website… take a look!

Cathy says:
Yum! Chocolate truffles are my favourite… and I will definitely be testing these out! Do you have any cool sweet or savoury recipes to share? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015


Reader Kerry has a problem… can Summer Tanberry help?

Kerry says:
I have been doing ballet and jazz dance since I was about four. I love it - it makes me feel alive, and my lessons are the happiest points in my week. The problem is that my friends don't approve. They think that ballet and dance in general is babyish and silly, and they think it's especially funny that I love it because I am not a typical dancer shape. I am quite tall, 5' 9", and also quite strongly built. If I didn't work so hard at my dance I would probably be overweight, but as it is I still stand out as being the 'big' one next to my friends. They tease me and make nasty comments and it is really getting to me. Do you have any advice?

Summer says:
I think your friends need a reality check. I bet they have no idea how much hard work dance is - and I'm pretty sure there is a bit of jealousy tied up in their attitude, too. Do they not have hobbies, or are their interests limited to making nasty gossip? Sorry, but with friends like this, who needs enemies? Their constant sniping must be chipping away at your confidence every day. You have a choice; either face your friends and tell them to stop putting you down all the time, or walk away from these girls and find some mates who respect you and the things that matter to you. As for not being a dancer's shape, so what? 99% of us who love dance will not end up being professional dancers, but trust me, it doesn't matter because we LOVE it. Dance is expressive and  empowering, and that's true whatever your shape might be. If dance matters to you, hold your head high and make your sure your friends know that it's a part of you… whether they like it or not. Good luck!

Cathy says:
Do YOU agree with Summer's advice? What would YOU add to it? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 26 January 2015


Another in our series of girls who made their mark on history. January 27th is Holocaust Memorial Day… a fitting time to remember a brave teenager whose voice still resonates with people today. Reader Cate tells us more…

Cate says:
Anne Frank was born on June 12th 1929 in the German city of Frankfurt, to a loving Jewish family; four years later, Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany. Nazi Germany was not a good or a safe place for Jewish families, and by 1933 Anne's parents, Otto and Edith had moved to Amsterdam in Holland, where they hoped their family - Anne and her sister Margot - would be free from persecution. Anne was a lively, bright and energetic girl with many friends; she loved school and had a strong sense of fun.

Sadly, this freedom was short-lived; in 1940 the Nazis invaded Holland and restrictive, unfair laws soon made life very hard for Jewish people. In 1942, on her thirteenth birthday, Anne was given a notebook bound in red and white checked cloth. She decided to use it as a diary and began writing in it at once. Addressing her diary entries to the imaginary 'Kitty', she wrote about her hopes, dreams, fears, crushes and much more. In July 1942, not long after her birthday, the family moved into hiding. Otto Frank left a note suggesting they had fled to Switzerland, but in fact the family, along with several others, lived a secret existence, hidden in an annexe in the attic of Otto's business offices. Non Jewish friends helped them to survive, bringing food and supplies in secret; the families had to stay silent during the day so as not to alert workers in the offices below. Anne passed her time writing, and her words are intimate, intelligent and very real, even to this day.

In 1944, after 25 months of hiding, an unknown person informed the Nazis of the secret annexe, and the Frank family were arrested and sent to separate concentration camps. Anne and her sister and mother were sent to Auschwitz; many Jews were killed on arrival at the camp, but the Franks were selected for slave labour. Later on, Anne and her sister were sent to Bergen-Belsen camp. Their mother stayed behind, and died of starvation. In 1945, just weeks before Allied Forces liberated the camp, Anne and her sister Margot died, probably of typhus. Otto Frank survived the camps and spent his life bringing Anne's words to the world.

Please read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. It is powerful and moving, but also very real and relateable. It is also full of hope. I will finish with my favourite quote from the book: 'In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.' 

Cathy says:
The story of Anne's life is so moving; through her diary, Anne comes alive and we can share her hopes and dreams and feelings -she was a girl just like us. Speaking out against injustice, hate and cruelty is as important today as it ever was. Have YOU read Anne Frank's diary? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Sunday, 25 January 2015


A new reading initiative is putting books right at the heart of both school and home life - find out how YOU can get involved!

With fears that children in the 21st century are reading less than previous generations, the Read For My School project aims to get children in schools across the UK to read one million books between now and March. To encourage readers to take part, the project is offering Reading Culture awards and prizes worth £1000 to winning schools. Students can enter a book review competition, and winners will get the chance to interview a successful children's author and see their interview published in children's newspaper First News.

So… how can your school get involved? It's easy - tell your teacher about it and ask them to log onto - they can then set up pupil accounts and access lots of materials and resources to get ready for the competition. 

Pupils are provided with a collection of books which are all available to read online, for free, via the Read For My School website. How cool? You might even find a Cathy Cassidy book on there! Of course, you can read books offline too, as long as they fit into one of the categories listed on the website… and fear not, there is lots of choice! 

Any initiative which encourages kids to get reading has to be good so why not tell your class teacher, English teacher or school librarian about Read For My School and get your school involved? It's lots of fun, and those prizes are well worth having, too!

Cathy says:
Does YOUR school take part in READ FOR MY SCHOOL? Or does it have other ways to encourage reading? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Saturday, 24 January 2015


Reader Sorcha was a confident girl until bullying wrecked her self-esteem; and there was nobody she could tell…

Sorcha says:
I was quite confident as a small child. At primary, my reports were good, my teachers like me and I had plenty of friends. I was excited about starting high school; if only I'd known how things would turn out.

It started on my second day. The school didn't have a strict uniform policy, just a basic colour code, so I'd worn a black scarf in my hair. One of the teachers, Mr Cole, stopped me in the corridor and yelled at me in front of my friends… I was so shocked I didn't know what to say or do. He seemed to think my silence was insolence, but I was just trying my hardest not to cry. He pulled the scarf out of my hair and threw it into the bin, and he told me he didn't like my attitude and that he'd be keeping an eye on me.

He did that, all right. Over the next few years, Mr Cole made my life a misery. He went out of his way to find fault with everything I did, everything I wore, everything about me. Other kids were getting away with murder, yet I was punished just for breathing… or that's what it felt like. He sent letters home about my poor attitude; Mum  didn't stand up for me like she should have… she thought I must be doing something to provoke things. The worst time was Year 9, when Mr Cole was my maths teacher. I didn't stand a chance. He once ripped my homework up in front of the class and told me I was worthless, an idiot.

I didn't tell anyone… who'd have believed me? He had turned the other teachers against me, and slowly I switched off, stopped trying. I felt hopeless all the time, worthless, just like he said I was. I left at sixteen with poor GCSE grades and started a course at 6th form college. I stopped feeling scared… started to try hard at my work again. My grades improved and it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I'm studying for A levels now, exams he told me I'd never be able to take.

Last week, I bumped into a friends' big brother. He asked how I was getting on and I told him I was loving college, that school had been a nightmare. He told me that Mr Cole had bullied a boy in his year, too, and made his life a misery, just as he had for me. Everyone knew it, but nobody spoke out. It made me think… who will be next? I've written a letter to the Head Teacher setting out what happened to me. I don't know if they'll believe me, even now, but I have to try.

Names have been changed and pictures are posed by model.

Cathy says:
Sorcha's story is a perfect example of how bullying can destroy confidence and ruin lives… and it's especially scary to think that the bully can be a trusted teacher. Have YOU ever been picked on by a teacher? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...