Wednesday, 30 April 2014

RAISE YOUR GLASSES!

I have been getting short-sighted lately and need to go to the optician as faraway things are looking a little bit hazy. I thought I'd ask my readers for their tips and advice on wearing glasses...

Maisie says:
I have been wearing glasses for just over ten years and I LOVE them! I'm a violinist and before I wore glasses I couldn't read the music properly - the notes looked blurry, like they were dancing around between the two lines of the stave. Eventually, I got glasses. Almost everyone in my family wears glasses, so I guess I was destined to wear them too! I have three pairs, plus a plastic pair with a bow that I wear over the top of my contact lenses - they look really trendy! There are a few annoying things about them - like when you're drinking tea and you get blinded by a sudden fog of steam on the glass! And I drink a lot of tea and coffee. Glasses are COOL - I wouldn't be me without them!
Victoria says:
I've worn glasses since I was four and I'm twelve now. We discovered the problem when we were in Russia visiting friends of my parents - I had to see an eye doctor there and it turned out one eye was very short-sighted and one less so. I have the right glasses now and my sight has improved - I hope it goes on improving. Having glasses makes me feel different, and I've noticed that boys in my class tend to go for girls without glasses; also when new people start in the class they assume I'm a nerd to begin with. One of my best friends wears contacts and I'd like to try that, but I'm a bit frightened. One day! If I forget to wear my glasses people say, 'Wow, you look so nice!' which makes me feel like they think I look ugly WITH glasses. Overall, I like having glasses but I hope to have perfect sight one day.

Azania says:
I've been wearing glasses since second grade and I have a love-hate relationship with them. They make me look very studious, and that gives a great impression to my teachers, but glasses can be very annoying too. If I finger print them by mistake and the cleaning cloth is not at hand, that's irritating! Nowadays I have started wearing contact lenses every day, and that is working really well - unless I wake late and am too sleepy to put them on in the morning!


Elizabeth says:
I have had glasses since I was ten and they always sit in a wonky fashion on my face because I'm rubbish at taking care of them! In Year Six I made my glasses warp by jamming them in my school tray, and once, in the school loos, they fell off my face when the toilet was flushing and got flushed away. I got them back and had to go on wearing the same pair (cleaned, obviously!) for another year. Arghhh! I'm fourteen now and still not much better at looking after my glasses - but when I do eventually clean them, it's like seeing in HD!

Ari-ka says:
I knew I'd needed glasses for a while but tried to ignore it... Mum made an appointment for me a couple of months ago. My frames are cool - everyone in school wanted to try them on, but a couple of people said I looked like a granny in them! I do find them hard to wear - you could say I haven't quite adjusted yet!

Charlotte says:
I've been wearing glasses since I was two. If people see me without them, they say 'Oh wow, you look so weird without glasses!' They get dirty easily and if I take them off to clean them, people comment and tease all over again... sigh!

Kira says:
I've had glasses since I was seven or eight. At first they were quite weak and nerdy but I have a new, stronger pair and they are much cooler than before! Everyone in my class loves them and are always wanting to try them on!

Grace says:
I got glasses last year after a routine eye test... it turns out I am short sighted and have to wear glasses all the time. My glasses are purple and really pretty, so I'm fine with that!

Sam says:
I got glasses in Year Six; I was supposed to wear them for looking at the board but now I need them full-time and can barely see without them! I have quite cool glasses now and hope I stick with them!

Hannah says:
I'm supposed to wear my glasses for reading and at college but I choose to wear them all the time - they're a part of my look now!

Chloe says:
I've worn glasses since I was about five; to begin with I was the only one who did, and I hated them. People called me 'four-eyes' - arghh! I got used to them and they really don't bother me now.

Amy says:
I've worn glasses since I was two; I should wear them all the time but stopped when I was sixteen as I felt so self-conscious. This was a bad move - my optician says I'm putting so much pressure on my 'good' eye that I'll permanently damage my sight if I go on trying to manage without. Now I have new frames and have customised them so they're the way I want them to be. I'm proud to wear them now - eyesight matters.

Wow... some amazing stories from some very stylish readers, and great tips too! Do YOU wear glasses? What do you think about them? COMMENT BELOW and share YOUR views!

ANIMAL CRACKERS!

Do your pets mean the world to you? We talk to readers about their cool pets and what makes them so special...

Alexandra says:
I have a three year old tortoise named Blaize and two bearded dragons named Cleopatra and Napoleon.  The bearded dragons (a kind of lizard) have been here for just a week and already one of them has escaped and the other has tried to... they are very beautiful but I have to feed them live worms and locusts which is not so good! I do love them to bits, though! My pet tortoise is just awesome, though - she is very laid back and happy to just sit on my lap and be cuddled while I read a book or do some maths work!

Elise says:
I have a cat called Tigger I got a year ago from the NSPCA - I fell in love with him. He sleeps on my bed all the time and every now and then I buy him treats. I also have a dog, Chester... he is eight now which is amazing, as he was born with diabetes and not expected to live more than six or seven years. He has recently has some surgery on his legs and now he runs like a puppy again! Every day my pets are there for me - they love and comfort me, and I like to do the same for them!

Sunny says:

Tintin is a mixed-breed dog - I'd say she was my pet but in many ways she's my best friend! She's my life, and she makes every day special. We adopted her from a rescue centre five days after she had been abandoned there. I take her on daily jogs and she is walked at least three times a day. I love her so much, and she's so loyal - I had an accident on my bike and she kept me happy while I was recovering. Tintin is a hero - today, tomorrow, forever.

Rebecca says:
I have a cat called Buttons - this picture just sums her up perfectly! I've had her since she was a kitten so I suppose in a way we have grown up together. I don't know what I would do without her! She's always very adventurous and daring - once she brought a live bird into the house, which flew up into my dad's face! Yikes. She's getting a bit old now but present her with a bot of string or a ribbon and it's like she's two again. She's the best cat in the world - along with my other cat, Milly - and I wouldn't want her any other way!

Charlotte says:

This is my Syrian hamster, Muffin... he is 63 weeks old today (yes, I count the weeks...) so that's a year and a few months. We got him from a local(ish) pet shop and I managed to tame him, and he is SO lovely! He used to escape and hide under the dresser all the time, but we got him a different cage and he's much happier and safer and unable to escape. He's really special to me!



Is YOUR pet extra awesome? COMMENT BELOW to tell us why...

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

READER ELLA SAYS COOKERY'S COOL!!!

Are you a domestic goddess or a kitchen disaster? We chatted to reader Ella, age 13, whose interest in cooking led her to begin a super-cool cookery blog... and helped her handle some serious health issues!

Cathy says:
I've been hearing amazing things about your food blog... what got you started?

Ella says:
I have always loved cooking. Mum and Dad taught me to cook and brought me up on homemade food - my whole family are keen cooks. I thought it might be cool to start a cookery blog, and Dad helped me to design and create it. I thought it would be a fun thing to try! I've always loved trying new recipes but I think the blog has made me more adventurous! Since starting it, I've learned how to make meringues (tricky!) and mashed potato, which I had never tried before! My family love that I'm doing this, but I think they wish I'd clean up the kitchen afterwards. Well, you can't have everything!

Cathy says:
How would you convince readers who may be hooked on frozen ready meals to try something different  and get cooking?

Ella says:
I'd get them to cook their favourite meal from scratch so they could taste how brilliant it would be homemade. Cooking is actually really good fun, especially pasta making - I love rolling out the dough! Cooking from scratch is much cheaper, too. It doesn't matter if things aren't perfect to start with, you're learning to try new things! Start off by helping your mum and dad, then do a little by yourself, then try making a small meal. Pretty soon you'll be a whizz in the kitchen! The recipes I cook for the blog are all vegetarian and pretty healthy, but for the desserts I go all-out for the flavour. Maybe I'm fattening up my family, but hey! Desserts are also a good way of getting a reluctant cook interested... it's fun, and you get a yummy treat at the end of it! My own favourite food is probably veggie kebabs with cashew sauce. My mum cooks them the best, although my dad might disagree on that...

Cathy says:
Have you ever had any culinary disasters?

Ella says:
All the time! Sometimes I forget to read the recipe right and miss out a vital step, and then I have to go back and do it later on. It doesn't always work when you do things the wrong way around! There have been occasions when I've spilled the ingredients all over the floor... my dog didn't seem to mind, though! I'm only in S2 at school so I haven't chosen my options yet, but I do get cookery every week and that's great. It should be on the timetable in every high school - we all need to know how to cook.

Cathy says:
Have you had any setbacks? And what does the future hold?

Ella says:
A few, I guess! I have diabetes and when I first found out, five years ago, it felt like the end of the world. I thought I wouldn't be able to have my favourite foods any more, but I was wrong. I have to be careful with my sugar intake, but that fact that I love cooking is a big help - I am more aware of what I am eating. I have to be able to count the carbs in my food to take the correct amount of insulin, so knowing what goes into the meals I cook helps a lot. In December, I was diagnosed with coeliac disease too - I thought, great, diabetic and coeliac! Coeliac disease means you cannot eat gluten, which is found in wheat and various other cereals. It wasn't too hard to adjust as I am used to being careful with what I eat, and I have great support from local dieticians and medical teams. When I cook for my family now I sometimes have to make two separate dishes so I can have a gluten free alternative - and some dishes are very hard to make gluten free. Gluten is what holds together bread, pasta and pastry together so it's a challenge! I've just learned to make gluten-free pastry and I know I will conquer these new challenges. My career dreams are to own a bakery or cafe one day - I'm going to make it happen!

Check out Ella's blog here!

Ella's blog has inspired me to try a few of her recipes - I even bought a recipe book that she recommended! Do you struggle with diabetes or coeliac disease? Or are you just a keen cook? COMMENT HERE to share your stories, or give some feedback on Ella's fab food blog.






Monday, 28 April 2014

IT'S A LONG STORY...

Do you have very long hair... or have you ever wished you did? We talk to readers with fabulously long locks and find out what they love/loathe about it!

Victoria says:

It's fun having long hair - it's totally unique. I can braid it, sit on it, style it any way I want... and it's thick, too, which helps keep out the cold! I can even wrap it round my neck like a scarf! Some people tell me to cut it because they think it looks ugly or is annoying. Sometimes I agree, because there are days when my hair just doesn't want to behave. It can get stuck in between stuff which is a pain, and for sports I have to tie it up tightly. There's too much of it to ever make a bun or a French plait! I've only cut my hair six times in my entire life. I'd like to be an actress when I'm older so I want to keep my hair in case it's needed for a role, but one day I'd like to do 'Locks of Love'. It's an American business where you send off ten inches of your hair and they make it into a wig for a child with cancer. I'd really like to make someone that happy.

Georgia says:

My hair is very long and I LOVE it! You can do all sorts of different styles with long hair so it never gets boring - you're not stuck with just one haircut, the way people with shorter hair are. I'm so glad I grew it because people always comment and compliment me these days, asking how long it took to grow. Long hair can be hard work, obviously... it used to get really knotty which was annoying, but now I have a special brush that keeps my hair perfectly smooth! My mum has to help me with it because I can't always get to all of it on my own - but that's OK because she knows how to do some pretty amazing styles. Here's a picture of how I had it for school today! Cool, huh?
Lauren says:

I really love having long hair because it makes me feel like the elves and heroines in all those cool fantasy stories! It's the most striking thing about me and it's long enough that I can easily tuck it into the pockets in my jeans, which I like. The worst thing is when it gets snagged on door handles - that happens a lot! Sometimes I straighten it and that makes it quite a bit longer. but that never lasts for more than about forty minutes, so most of the time I leave it natural. I'd never cut it, as then I'd be breaking all the countless promises I have made over the years to total strangers who call me Rapunzel and beg me not to ever change it! I feel more unique with long hair... it's part of what makes me 'me'.

Morgan Ruby says:

I have always had long hair. Apart from the odd trim, I never really had a proper cut. I loved it when I was small... it made me feel different and cool. As time went on, though, it got longer and was so thick it was actually really difficult to manage. At its longest it was actually way past my knees! Washing my hair became a huge hassle - it would take over an hour and there was no way I could manage it by myself... there was just too much hair! It would get really knotty, too. Suddenly, there was no fun in having long hair any more; I just couldn't do anything with it. In the end, my mum got fed up and cut it for me. We were going to donate it, but it wasn't in good enough condition, so we didn't. My hair is still long, but much more manageable now and easier to cope with. I'm happy!

Manda says:
My hair is a couple of inches below waist length. Sometimes I have to put it in a bun for dance shows/ exams or ice skating, and that is NOT easy with so much hair - I have to use a lot of hairspray and pins to get it to behave. If I've just washed it, though, it goes all wispy and is impossible to control! When I was younger I didn't brush it as much as I should have and it could get very tangled... it's much easier now! I've thought of cutting it but I'd miss being able to do so much with it. I had a fringe a few years back, badly cut - by me - but lots of styles just didn't suit it. If I ever do cut it, I'll donate it to the Little Princess Trust, who make wigs for children who have lost their hair through illness.


Vasillina says:

I love having long hair. You can style it in so many ways compare to shorter styles, although I can't really curl it - my hair weighs a ton and is stretches out the curls so they just drop out again. Waves work, though. I need a LOT of shampoo and conditioner just to keep it clean and shiny. Sometimes my mates take my hair and try to choke me with it for a joke... and I have been known to use it as a scarf when I'm cold! I would like to grow it longer, too. By the time it reaches my ankles I plan to cut it some if it to give to girls with cancer. When you have long hair, you just can't really picture yourself with short hair!

Cathy says:
Would YOU have the patience to grow your hair long and keep it that way? Or do you think a short, sharp crop is cooler? I had a short, 'bowl-cut' haircut as a child and always dreamed of long hair - which probably why my hair is still long now! I do find it easier to look after now it's just below shoulder length, though! COMMENT BELOW to tell us YOUR views! 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

ONE THOUSAND PAPER CRANES...

Do you know the legend of Sadako and the one thousand paper cranes? Reader Miako knows it well...



Sadako was a Japanese girl who became ill with leukaemia after the atomic bombings at Hiroshima. In Japan, it is said that anyone who folds one thousand origami paper cranes so pleases the gods that he or she is granted a wish. Sadako had folded a total of 644 cranes by the time she lost her battle with leukaemia and died, age 12, in 1955. Her friends and classmates finished the thousand cranes which were buried with her. A statue to honour Sadako stands at Hiroshima now. Sadako's story has inspired many; Miako, aged 17, explains how she took up the challenge herself...

Miako says:
I'd heard Sadako's story before, but I went to Japan in 2011 and the story really hit home then, One of my Japanese friends had just made 1000 paper cranes and I decided to do the same. It took four and a half months, and in october last year counted them all out and wrapped them up and took them to Hiroshima to put at Sadako's memorial. When I showed my friends in Japan the cranes I had made some looked close to tears, because they knew that someone from far away was thinking of them; the Japanese are very humble and appreciate everything. The prayer that went into the 1000 paper cranes was for a particular person to return home for me; but then his sister got sick and he couldn't return home. In other words, I gave my wish to him so that he could wish for his sister's health.

When I came back from Japan I planned on making another 1000, but then I decided I'd like a bigger goal, and I knew I had to aim for 10,000. I've been working on that since late October and have made almost 3,000 so far. I ran out of paper for a while but now I'm back in business.

The prayer or wish behind the 10,000 is a prayer for peace - I would like to stop all atomic bombs, and for the world to be at peace; no more war. Folding the cranes is tricky at first but it becomes second nature. As you're doing it, you have to focus, and that's where the prayer comes in - it's your prayer or intention folded into a paper crane.

You can find out how to fold an origami crane HERE... it can take a few tries to get it right, but with practice it soon becomes second nature. Try it!

Cathy says:
After the tsunami in Japan in 2011 my daughter and I began folding cranes, to send a message of peace and hope to Japan; I made a FB page and gave out worksheets on how to fold a crane at my school events. Could YOU make some paper cranes - perhaps even get together with classmates to make 1000? COMMENT BELOW to let us know what you think about Sadako's story, Miako's challenge or anything else paper crane related!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

THE LUCK OF THE IRISH...

Have you ever watched RIVERDANCE and wished you could dance like that? Irish dancing is hugely popular, and not just in Ireland! We talked to some readers who know their jigs from their reels...


Megan says:
When I was six, I went to my granddad's 80th birthday party and a family friend got up to dance. From that moment on I knew that I wanted to be a dancer, and my sister and I began to go to Irish dancing lessons. We dance 3-4 times a week now. I LOVE dancing - it's not just my hobby but my life. I love competing, and next week I am going to London to compete in the World Irish Dancing Championships. When we have competitions we have to wear stage make up and fake tan, and our dresses are so elaborate too! For competitions I wear a bun wig and I have to pin my own hair up to the wig so it looks like my own hair; I don't like wearing wigs because they hurt your head as you have to use so many grips! My dress isn't heavy which is mad because there are lots of diamonds on it! Irish dancing has taught me self discipline and it has definitely improved my confidence, too. I couldn't imagine not dancing.


Mia says:
I live in Wales and I started Irish dancing when I was nine. My friend Caitlyn had been dancing since she was five, and I used to love watching her in the Summer Spectaculars in Tenby. I told my mum I'd love to be able to do that too, and a few months later I started lessons. On my first lesson I learnt to do 'hop-2-3's' and did them everywhere; then I learnt the 'bungrad reel'. I got my first pair of dance shoes and wore them like slippers all around the house! The dresses are expensive, but my friend was selling one second hand; I tired it on for the first time at my nan's house, and it was a perfect fit. It was still expensive, but my nan said she'd pay for it and I was so happy! A few months later my nan died, and I promised myself I would keep on dancing and make my nan proud. Since then I have been trying my very hardest at dance.

Aoife says:
I do Irish dance, and I love it. When I dance I can forget about everything else and be totally free. I don't dance competitively any more, I just dance because it makes me feel like I'm on top of the world. I love the traditional Irish music and hearing the rhythms and sounds that my feet make with the hard Irish dancing shoes. The first time I watched Riverdance when I was five, I knew I wanted to do Irish dancing. I did ballet between the ages of four and eight and then I began Irish dancing.
My teacher is amazing and always inspires me to become even better. Irish dancing has taught me so many things, from having good posture to being able to remember step sequences. There are two styles of Irish dance... 'Feis' dancing is the one with the wigs, the sparkly dresses and the fake tan; 'Festival' dancing is much more traditional, and that's the kind I do.
There are two types of shoes used... the hard shoes are mostly about rhythm, and the soft shoes are about being light on your feet. I live in Northern Ireland, and Irish dancing is really popular here. I recommend it to everyone and to all ages... it's a great workout, and it's never too late to start! Irish dancing is such an important part of my life - I would feel lost without it.


Have you ever tried Irish dancing? Would you like to? COMMENT BELOW to share your feedback and views, and do check out classes in your area... you know you want to!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

MATILDA - I LIVE IN SINGAPORE!

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to live overseas? Reader MATILDA tells us all about her life in SINGAPORE...


Matilda says:
I live in the North-East region of Singapore, the Sengkang area; I live in a flat in a high rise building. I'm thirteen, and I go to an all-girls school; the school day lasts for about eight hours. In my school, the students are very united and the teachers are really nice too. Our uniform is a pale blue short-sleeved dress - the weather here is Summer all year round, so it's pretty warm, but you do get used to it! As a student, one of the most important times in your life is when you turn twelve, as that's when you take your Primary School Leaving Exam (PSLE). Each secondary school has a certain cut-off point when it comes to grades, so to find a place at your chosen school, your PSLE score must equal or excel their cut-off point. It's a stressful year but also the most fun and memorable one of primary school.

The food in Singapore is a mix of Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Indonesian influences. Some of the favourite dishes include satay (meat skewered and marinated in turmeric, grilled over an open fire), roti prata (a fried, flour-based pancake cooked over a flat grill), and bak kut teh (a chinese soup containing pork ribs, herbs and spices). The picture is of a dish called hokkien mee, which I cooked myself. There are lots of restaurants here, but local people like eating at food courts as you can get such a wide range of dishes.

Singapore has a rich and varied history; more recently it was a part of British Malaya for many years, and ruled by the Sultanate of Johor. It was a major trading port. Singapore became part of Malaysia for two years, and then became independent in 1965. It is a very cosmopolitan country, where east meets west. One of the things I love most about Singapore is that there are plants almost everywhere you look. There are many amazing parks and reservoirs here, and although it is very densely populated and built up, the abundance of beautiful flowers can take your breath away. I guess that's why Singapore is known as the Garden City! In Singapore, we are a mix of cultures and religions but on the whole we get along fine - and the mixture makes Singapore the unique place it is. I love it, because it's the place I was born and where I've grown up, and I have come to love so much about my country. I feel very proud to say I am a Singaporean!

Cathy says:
Wow... I've been to Singapore for a mini tour a few years ago and I agree it is a stunning country, a real mixture of East and West and very modern, too! Do YOU live outside UK/Ireland? COMMENT BELOW if you'd like to tell us more about YOUR country, or just chip in with a comment about Singapore!

CHERRY COLA CUPCAKES HEAVEN...

Ooh... reader Carrie made some gorgeous cherry cola cupcakes with chocolate chips... a little like the yummy cherry chocolate cola cake in my book CHERRY CRUSH! Carrie shares her recipe here... you'd be crazy not to give it a go!

Cherry Cola Choc Chip Cupcakes

Cupcakes:
150g self raising flour
150g sugar
150g butter
3 medium eggs
100g dark choc chips
Cherry essence to taste - approx 1 teaspoon

icing:
100g butter
100g icing sugar
1 teaspoon Sainsbury's cola flavouring

Method:
To make the cupcake mixture, cream butter and sugar, add beaten eggs with a couple of tablespoons of flour to prevent curdling. Mix in rest of flour, choc chips and cherry essence. Divide between twelve cupcake cases in a muffin tray and bake at 180 degrees in a fan oven for about 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

To make the icing, cream butter and icing sugar gradually; mix in cola flavouring and swirl onto cupcakes. You can add a tiny bit of food colouring to the mix if you'd like a brightly coloured icing... Carrie used red; and you can decorate with sugar sprinkles, Smarties or chocolate curls... perfect!

Enjoy!

Cathy says:
COMMENT BELOW to let us know if you like the sound of these... I know I do! Do you have a favourite recipe you'd like to share on DREAMCATCHER? You can tell me about it here!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

ASK SUMMER...

Another reader's problem... and this time, Summer Tanberry does her best to sort it out. What do YOU think?

Freya says:
My problem is that I think I'm overweight. My friends have hinted at it a lot and the boys in my class tease me and call me horrible names. I've asked my mum if I can diet but she says there isn't a problem, that I'm just tall and curvy, but I wear a size 16 now and I do feel awkward next to my friends. The trouble is, my parents are quite big and even my brother, who's ten, is big. I think maybe we all have a problem. If I try to eat smaller portions or skip pudding, Mum gets upset, and healthy options just don't exist in our house... it's all junk food and takeaways and family size bottles of coke and bags of crisps. It's not that I want to be thin, but I'd like to feel better about myself and I'd like to be fitter, too. I'm not sporty and I hate PE lessons so much I often forge a note to get out of them.

Summer says:
OK, I guess you know I have a problem with food, right? I started feeling scared that I was getting too big a year or so ago and I began to diet and it got way, way out of control. So I am not a fan of diets, at all. They are really bad for teenagers, according to the doctors I've been seeing lately, so instead of trying to follow some fad diet focus on making healthier choices.

For starters, report the boys who are picking on you; bullying does NOT help anyone's self-esteem. If your family are hooked on junk food, it may take time to change them; why not cook once or twice a week and make healthy versions of their favourite meal? If you're shopping with them, put a few healthy choices into the trolley, too... fresh fruit and veg, wholemeal bread, lean protein. Check out a library book on healthy eating for recipes to get you started. I think that junk foods can be a bit addictive, but I suspect that deep down your family know they're not making the best food choices. Perhaps an auntie or cousin would have a word with your mum for you, and help you get the healthy eating message across? A trip to the cinema doesn't have to include slushies and popcorn, a day in town doesn't have to include a trip to MacDonalds... treats don't have to be food-related.

You say you're not sporty, but I think you know how important fitness is... so try to find something you do enjoy! I am not great at team sports like netball and hockey, for example, but love dance - maybe you would too? It's never too late to start, and dance is a great workout! If it's not for you, try swimming, running, zumba, cycling, aerobics... anything that gets you moving. If all else fails, start walking everywhere - your fitness levels will skyrocket, and soon you'll move on to cycling or running.   Exercise is one of those things where the more you do, the more you love it... taking the first few steps is the tricky bit. I bet your friends would love to help by going swimming with you or trying out tennis in the park or planning a bike expedition to the next town.

One last word of warning; I got all wound up about my weight when there wasn't really a problem in the first place. Making healthier food choices and taking up a sport is one thing, but if you are still worried about this see your doctor - he/she can tell you if you are a healthy weight for your height and build, and if not, suggest ways to help. And if you do decide to change the way you eat... well, just be careful not to take it too far...

Summer's advice is good... but what would YOU add to it? MESSAGE BELOW to offer your advice and support to Freya and share your own experiences!


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

OVERSEAS READERS SHARE THEIR FAVE CC BOOKS...

More cool readers share their reviews of their favourite Cathy Cassidy book... and why it made such an impression on them. Take a look... you might want to try their top picks too!


Michaela says:
My favourite CC book is SCARLETT. Why? There are lots of reasons. Let's start with when we first met; it was my ninth birthday. Dad gave me The Tales of Beedle The Bard by JK Rowling and Scarlett. I loved Harry Potter so I read that one first, then a month later picked up Scarlett with no enthusiasm. After an hour I was hooked. I was so ANGRY with Scarlett, like no character before in any book I;d ever read. I was sure it was my favourite book long before I finished reading and I am still sure now. Now I am older, I find I understand her feelings more. You could say I grew up with Scarlett. I don't care if I'm 9, 12, 13 or 20, I think Scarlett will always be in my heart. I will still want her red hair and arguments! I live in Czech Republic and read the books in Czech, but if my dad hadn't bought that copy of Scarlett I would never have found Cathy Cassidy and life just wouldn't be the same.

Azania says:
I live in India so Cathy Cassidy's books are not always easy to find - but they are worth it! My favourite has to be DIZZY... it's a really beautiful piece on families. On how even if your family is messed up, or like a jigsaw puzzle missing a few integral pieces, like Dizzy's and Mouse's... well, what really matters is the love that binds that family together, not the blood. What complements this family story is the caramel-coated romance of Dizzy and Finn, which really appeals without being too jarring. It's not too full-on, which I like because it doesn't eat away at the main plot - it's just perfectly balanced. Dizzy is just a perfect concoction of family bonding, friendship, drama, romance and tears.

Victoria says:
I live in Denmark, and my favourite book is definitely Angel Cake. It shows you how the UK seems on first impressions, from someone arriving from overseas. Being 30% Polish, I could relate to Anya a little bit and how she was worried all the time. Going to an international school I know exactly what it's like to have people asking if you can speak English; I haven't experienced it myself, but I have seen it happen to others. This is a beautiful story about finding happiness in an unknown and unlikely place, and I love it.


Mary-Joy says:
I live in Australia and Summer's Dream is my favourite CC book. It's a book anyone can relate to - when you fight for a dream that could be once-in-a lifetime and you won't stop, can't stop. The book shows what happens if you fight too hard. Friends and family notice that Summer is making herself ill - I liked the character of Alfie, who knew the best way to get through to Summer and help her recovery. I've read Chocolates & Flowers, the e-book mini that tells Alfie's story, and I loved that too. The Chocolate Box Girls series touches on real family issues and dramas, and I can't wait for Honey's book now!

Hassana says:
I am from Lagos, Nigeria, and I have just discovered Cathy Cassidy's books. They are bliss to me... I am a huge, massive fan! Every time I read one of them, I feel like I am in that world and I don't want to come out. So far I have only been able to read Scarlett, Sundae Girl and Shine On Daizy Star, I borrowed them from a friend so sadly I don't actually own them,  but I plan to find and read some more this year! I wasn't really a fan of teen books or novels before this - I was more into science textbooks - but these books have changed me. I am even making a Cathy Cassidy fanpage to spread the word so that more teenagers read the books!


Do you live outside of the UK and Ireland? If so, and you'd like to get more involved in DREAMCATCHER and tell readers more about your country, get in touch with Cathy here and explain what you'd like to write about. Or, COMMENT BELOW to tell us whether YOUR fave CC book got a mention here!

Monday, 21 April 2014

READER AUTUMN... 'JUST BE YOURSELF!'

Reader Autumn shares her views with DREAMCATCHER - on what it's like to stand out from the crowd!




Hi Autumn! Could you tell us how old you are and when you got into Cathy's books?

I'm 18 now and I was 10 when I started reading Cathy's books. I loved the bright covers and realistic characters. Driftwood is my favourite because I live in Scotland and LOVE kittens!

We can't help noticing you have a very cool and unique style... how did this evolve?

Growing up in a small town, it was rare to see people who stood out from the crowd. Whenever I saw pictures of alternative people in mags, I was fascinated by their uniqueness and self confidence. I told Mum I wanted to be a goth when I was 8 - I've been through many styles since! For me, it was an important way of finding my own identity. I like to feel I'm bright and interesting, just like my hair!

Do you enjoy standing out from the crowd?

I love it! My drama teacher said my hair brightened her day, and a man one told me he was so pleased the younger generation still dressed like he did as a teenager! It's good to know I can cheer people up just by being myself.

Have you ever been teased for the way you look, and if so how have you dealt with it?

In a small town, there'll always be a bit of teasing. Usually I ignored it - it'd generally be bored kids looking for a reaction. Sometimes if kids ask 'How come you look so weird?' I'll reply 'How come you don't?' It lightens things and hopefully makes them see it's not nice to question people's reasons for being themselves!

Do you feel others judge you on your appearance? Does this bother you?

People do. Some assume I must be into drugs or devil-worship because of my piercings which is just crazy and clearly not true. Some were shocked that a 12 year old had dyed hair, piercings and make-up - but I was actually 16 at the time, I just look young!

What are your hobbies, interests and ambitions?

I love drawing, writing, reading, listening to music - like most people! I'm into motorcycles, too. And one day I'd like to be a research psychologist!

What advice would you give to readers who like to make their own style statements?

The obvious advice is 'be yourself!' Ignore stereotypes, wear what you know suits you and don't let negative people bring you down. My mum's motto is 'Don't sweat the small stuff' and I think that's great - to me, the 'small stuff' is the small minds of those who think you're weird for just being true to yourself. Remember that bullies will find ANYTHING to pick on if they're determined - don't change for their sake.

Do YOU have a unique or alternative style - or wish that you did? Or, perhaps you've been bullied because of your style choices? COMMENT BELOW to share your views and stories...


Sunday, 20 April 2014

AN EGGSTRA SPECIAL EASTER...

What's YOUR favourite thing about Easter? We asked readers to share their favourite traditions as well as the things they like best about Easter...

Belle says: 
One Easter I had a sleepover with my friends and we dressed up in bunny ears, made crispie cake nests with those little chocolate eggs in, and handed them out in the area where I live the next morning... that was very cool! People were a bit surprised but it made everyone smile... that's got to be good, right?

Shellie says:
We do egg-rolling near my village on Easter morning. There's a hill and lots of people turn up with hard-boiled eggs we have painted ourselves. The idea is to roll the eggs down the hill, and whichever one gets furthest wins a prize. We keep going even after the prizes are gone, and in the end the eggs get all smashed up. Our dog loves it, because he gets to hoover up hard-boiled egg!

Charlotte says:
We have an Easter egg hunt in the garden that our granny makes for us - we have a few friends over and it's really good fun!

Megan says:
Our friends come round for Easter Sunday lunch. After we eat, the little kids go outside and hunt for eggs.

Holly says:
I count friends as family so I give them all Easter eggs - Easter is about giving, not taking.

Hannah says:
We wait until everyone is up and then we go downstairs and hunt for Easter eggs... don't think I'll ever grow out of that!

Victoria says:
We always fly to London (I'm originally from Denmark) to celebrate there. On Easter Sunday we go to a michelin star restaurant and then feast on Cadbury chocolate eggs. We sometimes have an Easter egg hunt in our hotel room, too! It's an unusual Easter, but it's our tradition, and that's why I love it!

Caoimhe says:
We decorate a branch with hanging eggs and little chicks.

Susanna says:
We have lots of traditions, but going to church on Easter Sunday morning is the main one. It's a religious day which celebrates Jesus rising from the dead, but the meaning seems to have got lost these days and people see it as all about chocolate eggs. I don't really get the connection, although I do like the chocolate eggs!

Aoife says:
I have given up chocolate for lent - that's FORTY DAYS without it for those who don't know - so I'll be going to mass and then heading home for a chocolate fest. I'll have earned it by then!

Gemma says:
My dad hides those little foil-wrapped chocolate eggs in pockets, shoes, drawers and nooks and crannies all around the house for us to find. I love it if I have a friend staying over, or relatives - they always love our tradition! And sometimes you are still finding chocolate eggs tucked away in clever hiding places months later!

Paula says:
We paint eggs. It's something we do every year - one year we tie-dyed them, one year we did batik dying on them, but often we just paint them with poster paints and varnish them. Mum keeps the best ones and the others we use for egg-rolling.

Lissa says:
It's about family. We go to church and then a big family dinner, outside if the weather is good, with everyone there, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. It's like the waking up of the year, if that makes sense.

Cara says:
It's all about chocolate, isn't it? Oh... I mean... being with FAMILY!!!

What makes YOUR Easter so special? MESSAGE BELOW to tell us! Oh, and HAPPY EASTER!!!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

HOME SCHOOLED... ONE READER'S STORY

Have you ever wished you didn't have to go to school? Reader Alexandra is home schooled - but she still gets up at 6am! Read on to find out why...

Alexandra says:
I went to school as normal when I was five and stayed until Year Three, but my parents had some issues with the school and eventually it got to the point where my brother, my sister and I all left to be home-schooled. I stayed out of school for two years, and then went to secondary school - but I was attending a year early. In some ways this was good but in some ways bad - I found it hard to make friends and some of my classmates bullied me because I was younger than them. They thought I considered myself smarter than them, but that wasn't true at all... sadly, the teachers didn't stick up for me, even when I turned to them for help.

At the start of Year Eight I opted out to be home schooled again, and I've been working this way for a year now. Many people tell me how lucky I am to be home-schooled, but it does have some down sides - I still have to wake up at 6am every morning because I play a lot of musical instruments and I have over three hours of practice to fit in every day! Also I don't get the chance to mix with other children my age very much, so socially that's quite challenging. I do have friends though - I do ballet, gymnastics and tennis and in all of these activities I have made friends my own age. I miss being able to see my friends every day, and I miss silly things like snowball fights! I do PE at home, but I miss inter-school matches in netball and hockey... they were fun!

On the up side, I love that I can wear my own clothes - and I get to work with my younger sister, who is also home-schooled, so it's not just me alone. I don't have to take the long car trip to school every day and I don't have to study my least favourite subjects. Well, not as much as I used to! My dad teaches me maths and science and I have two tutors who teach me Spanish, English and French. My auntie teaches me Latin. Being home-schooled has helped me to progress dramatically in these subjects but i feel I lack knowledge in History, Geography and Religious Studies, for example. Music is a key thing in my life and I play four instruments at a high level, which keeps me busy! Add to that my other hobbies and interests and it all makes for a very interesting life. I don't think that being home-schooled is any better or worse than going to a regular school, but it's right for me, at the moment at least.

When I'm older, I would love to go to university to study medicine as I'd like to become a paediatrician ( a doctor who works with children.) At one point, I dreamed of becoming an Olympian gymnast, but somehow I don't think that will happen! Recently we've been looking at boarding schools and I will soon be starting at one of them as a day-pupil - I am very excited about this and hope this will be the right school for me, the place I will stay until uni. Being home-educated does get lonely sometimes, so I am looking forward to a new challenge!

Do you think you'd like being home-schooled? Or would you miss your friends and teachers? COMMENT BELOW to share your ideas and views!

Friday, 18 April 2014

EASTER BAKING IDEAS!!!

Want to surprise your family with some sweet treats this Easter? Look now further than these yummy recipes from readers Amelia and Charlotte, and their kitchen goddess mum Ros!


EASTER CHOCOLATE CRISPIE NESTS...
(Makes approx 24)

You will need:
300g cook's chocolate/ chocolate cake covering
100g rice crispies
75g raisins
bag of chocolate mini eggs
paper bun cases


Method: 
Place bun cases ready in two bun trays. Melt chocolate either in a bowl over a pan of boiling water, OR in a bowl in the microwave (1-2 minutes... do it in stages and keep checking!). Add rice crispies and raisins and mix well, then spoon mixture into bun cases and add two or three mini eggs to each nest. Allow to set and enjoy!

SPRING CITRUS CAKES

You will need:
paper bun cases
100g margarine
100g caster sugar
100g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 orange

For butter icing:
75g butter, softened
175g icing sugar
a little juice from orange
jelly orange/lemon slices

Method:
Turn oven to 180 deg c, place bun cases in bun trays ready. Cream marge and sugar together until light and fluffy and gradually beat in eggs, one at a time, adding a little flour with each. Fold in remaining flour and baking powder. Add half juice from orange and grate in zest of orange is liked. Divide mix between bun cases and bake for approx 20 minutes until golden brown.
Icing:
Beat butter in bowl until creamy, sift and gradually beat in icing sugar adding a little juice from orange. Pipe or spread onto cooled buns and decorate with jelly orange/ lemon slices or pretty icing flowers.

Wow... these recipes look amazing... I will definitely be trying them! COMMENT BELOW to tell us your favourite Easter treats... mmmm!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

SPORTY GALS...

Is there one particular sport you really, really love? Readers spill the beans on their favourite ways of keeping fit and healthy!

Kayla says:
I play lacrosse, and my team recently won our first tournament! There are a lot of rules; in our tournament, you couldn't hit the the opposing teams stick if it was above waist level, and definitely not across the body. Boy's lacrosse has a lot more contact, apparently, but we get to have the occasional shoulder barge! There's a lot of running about and marking players, and the aim is to get the ball up the pitch and into the goal. When you manage that, it's really exciting! Lacrosse is quite an unusual sport in secondary schools still. If more schools played it, we'd be able to do more tournaments... give it a go!
Morgan Ruby says:
I enjoy running because I can't do many sports, but this one I can! Long distance running shows you how to pace yourself; if you sprint off at the start you'll get a stitch and have to stop. I found out I enjoyed running from doing Cross Country in PE at school, and I'd love to try out for the school team. I like the feeling of achievement you get when you complete a race - and begin to set your goal further! It's not really a team sport, but you are still competing - and you learn a lot about yourself in the process!

Lucy says:
I first got into karate from watching a TV programme  about a boy who did it - he was great! A friend told me there was a club in the village so I went along, slightly nervous - I had no idea what to expect! The teacher was treat and right from the first warm-up I enjoyed it - when I got home I started to practise right away as I loved it so much! My friend left after a while, but I was a red belt by then and totally hooked. I entered a competition and came first in the under-10s section, and I'm a brown belt, which is one of the highest grades in my class. We have to learn four gradings a year, but it's good fun... and when I'm 13 I can try out for my black belt! Watch out world!

Elise says:
Last year I didn't do any sports, and then a couple of months ago I started at the gym and began to do after-school sports. One of the sports was hockey, and I got hooked on it really quickly! It has become a part of me and I can't actually imagine life without it, now! Pretty soon I was being picked to play inter-schools matches, and now I even have my own hockey stick. I love being part of a team and I love the rush of excitement when I'm playing a match... I play in defence but when your team scores a goal it's an amazing feeling!

What's YOUR favourite sport or exercise? COMMENT BELOW if you'd like us to feature it in DREAMCATCHER or just share your own sporty stories here!