Sunday, 31 August 2014

NESSA: SINGING THE BLUES...

Reader Nessa loves writing songs - and finds it's the only thing that has helped her cope with depression…

Nessa says:
I have always struggled with strong emotions and looked for ways to feel less out of control - I have never been good at expressing my feelings. By the time I hit my teens, I felt like I hated myself, and began falling into the most horrible depression… I would do anything I could think of of hurt and punish myself, and nothing seemed to help me break free of it.

Not long ago, when I was really down and my emotions were so messed up that I couldn't concentrate properly on anything, I hit rock bottom - I felt like I couldn't go on. Out of nowhere, I started to write… not stories, but lyrics. I used my own feelings and experiences to create the songs, and after a while I talked to a friend about it and she came up with the tunes on her guitar. I would love to perform the songs one day.

I like songwriting because it is a way to let out my emotions without having to talk - it can be hard to talk about such personal stuff, especially if you have social anxiety. Writing songs doesn't come naturally to me the way it might to some people, but that just makes it more rewarding when I manage to write a good song. I write in all kinds of different styles - I've even written a rap, about a break-up, which I think is quite cool! Often I write about things I've been through… the subject matter can be dramatic and emotional, but it's a good way to let it all out…

Faking a smile, holding back tears…
Am I really strong enough to fight?
I would turn up the music and block out the world
I'm not dreaming…

Cathy says:
I think it's amazing that Nessa is using her own experiences to write songs… she is channelling those strong and painful emotions into something very powerful and beautiful. Do YOU have a way of coping with strong or difficult feelings? COMMENT BELOW to share your ways of handling the hard times, or to give a shout-out to Nessa for making something creative and beautiful out of her struggles.

Name has been changed and pics are posed by model to protect Nessa's privacy.
Model: Charlotte S
Photographer: Sarah S

Saturday, 30 August 2014

FAY: MY VINTAGE STYLE!

Another in our occasional series of profiles looking at readers who follow their own unique style… 

Fay says:
My favourite thing about vintage style is knowing that an item has been loved by others before you. My definition of vintage is, 'things with memories attached', and my prize possessions are a 1940s red and black coat, silk elbow length gloves, a floppy woven hat, a black taffeta floor length skirt, a black velvet hat and a yellow 1950s style dress. My vintage idol is Audrey Hepburn - I am trying to teach myself Dutch in her honour!

My interest in vintage style began soon after I became obsessed with dressing as a porcelain doll, and that kind of linked me in to the whole vintage way of life. I like to be pale so I wear factor 50 suncream, pale powder and foundation… and if I find myself on a beach or somewhere hot, I use my parasol. For make up, I also use candy-floss colour cheek tint to make me look more doll-like.

Of course, in school we have a uniform so I use my pale powder and add knee length socks (sometimes with frills) and tie my hair with ribbons to fit the look. I like to be different because it is a way to show you are not afraid of what others may think; you have a right to be true to yourself and not to have to follow crowds or stick to the latest trend. My fashion motto is: 'Trends wear out, but style can be yours for a lifetime!'

Fay's Tips:
1/ Try to find bargains!
2/ See what you like best; just because someone famous favours 80s style, you may be more of a 50s kinda person.
3/ Ignore size labels - they had different sizing back in the day!
4/ Try vintage accessories with modern outfits… I often do this with a hat, scarf, necklace or pair of shoes!
5/ Have fun and don't be scared to try on bizarre clothes… they'll look better on you than on the hanger!


Cathy says:
Fay's style is very cool… I love it! Do YOU have a unique take on fashion and style? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more, or to comment on Fay's style!

Friday, 29 August 2014

DEBORAH: AT THE QUEEN OF TEEN CEREMONY!

Reader Deborah, who was my superfan at the fabulous Queen of Teen ceremony recently, spills the beans on what happened there…

Deborah says:
The Queen of Teen Ceremony was amazing. When you put things like books, quirky authors, a pink carpet and a buffet with nothing but cake, you could make any girl smile! Meeting Cathy was a dream I had from the first hour I became a fan. I always imagined her signing my books and asking me what I want to do in life. The reality was ten times better than my dream! Cathy was super friendly and been worried I wouldn't get there in time (I was over an hour late because of bad traffic!). She gave me a notebook for my own stories - this reminded me a lot of when Charlotte gave Cherry a notebook in Cherry Crush! I am totally saving it for when I write a bestseller!

The ceremony was even more amazing. There were boards with all the shortlisted authors printed up on them - I have one with Cathy's signature on it! The cake stands in the food tent were overflowing with treats! There were piles of books on every table for readers to take for free and then get signed by the authors, and the rows of seats came right up to the front of the marquee where the throne was! The thought of my speech totally slipped my mind so when it was my turn to give a superfan speech I just resorted to telling the story of my life and how Cathy's books had helped me, and afterwards everybody  complimented me on how good my speech was. Holly Smale even wrote 'great speech' in my copy of her book when she signed it!

On the whole, the ceremony was a dream come true. I met the best author in the world and many of her colleagues, ate the best cakes ever and took in so much happiness I stayed in dreamland for weeks afterwards! I got a gift bag and books from the other authors and brought along EVERY Cathy Cassidy  book printed that I own to be signed! People wait a lifetime for a moment like that day and I honestly can't believe it all happened to me!

Cathy says:
It was a privilege for ME to meet such a talented and enthusiastic reader as Deborah - I couldn't have asked for a better 'superfan'! I may not have won the award this year - the new Queen of Teen is the one and only James Dawson, flying the flag for equality. Have YOU ever had a dream-come-true-day? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more, or to have your say on Deborah's experience!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

LES FILLES AU CHOCOLAT!

Did you know that the Chocolate Box Girls is a bestselling series in France? Mais, oui! We asked some French readers to review their fave CC books...

Zoe says:
I am thirteen years old and I love the books 'The Chocolate Girls'. I started reading the books a year ago. My mother gave me COEUR CERISE (CHERRY CRUSH) when I came back from a holiday with my grandmother. I love the books because there is so much suspense and I love the chocolate theme. As soon as I finish one of the books I want to learn more, I feel as though I am inside the story! I absolutely love the story of many sisters and I like that each sister has a book to tell her own story, which keeps it all exciting and unexpected. I wrote to Cathy Cassidy and asked for a signed photograph, which Cathy sent to me! Thanks to Cathy, I love to read!

Line and Jeanne say:
Line: I'm twelve and I live in the north of France. My favourite Chocolate Box book is COEUR SALE (BITTER SWEET). Shay Fletcher, fifteen years old, discovers that his brother is a much better person than he thought. He will even help him make his dream come true: become a famous singer. I liked this book because we get to know Shay much better and appreciate him even more!
Jeanne: I am fourteen, and Line's sister. I have read all of the Chocolate Box books… I loved all of the series but my favourite so far is the last one, COEUR VANILLE (SWEET HONEY). I like it because at last everything becomes clear about the family's split up. Honey starts to understand that Cherry and Paddy are good people and she slowly sees that her dad is not as perfect as she thought. Besides, there is a big mystery and lots of suspense… and also a love story!

Enora says:
I discovered the books of Cathy Cassidy by chance (a good chance!). I was passing a holiday with my grandmother and left all my books at home, so we went to the library in the next village. Many books did not look interesting, and then I read the summary of COEUR CERISE (CHERRY CRUSH) the first book of the Chocolate Box series. I finished the book the same evening and re-read it over and over. Since this day, I have bought all of the books a few days after they are released! I love the books because they have my favourite flavours in their names… and because I can 'find' me a little in each book and each character! A love story? A chocolate story? Totally my style! I cannot pick out any character as my favourite because I adore them all! Great books that I share with my friends.

Cathy says:
I think my French readers are AWESOME! I can't wait to visit Paris again this November for the Montreuil Book Fair and meet more French fans… tres cool! COMMENT BELOW if you are a French reader - or if you've ever been to France!

SUMMER STYLE REPORT: CUTE HAIR ACCESSORIES...

Looking for SOMETHING to finish off a special look, or to get the holiday vibe when you're heading for sunnier climes? Summer style reporter Manda has some suggestions!
Pic one…
Manda says:
I thought this one was lovely, it felt all royal and exotic - just different from everything else, which I loved! Don't know how well it would stay on in the long run, but with a few hair grips I could probably make it work! I'd probably leave it for special occasions as I don't see it going with everyday clothes too well (at least my idea of everyday, which is extremely casual!), but overall I like it… it makes me feel a little like an Asian princess!

Cathy says:
Very Eastern… I can imagine wearing this for a night out in Tunisia or Morocco! It's beautiful and very eye-catching, but it could be a little too ornate for a weekend in Blackpool…

Pic two…
Manda says:
Although it's pretty, this wasn't really one of my favourites. I kind of liked the little chiffony flowers, but at the same time I think I prefer the more realistic ones. It's a bit plain for my tastes, but it probably depends what you wear it with; I can see it looking good with more of a fancy evening dress, where normal flower crowns wouldn't be as fitting… as long as the colours didn't clash! It reminds me vaguely of a costume I had in a dance show once, so I can see it being part of some kind of ballet costume too!

Cathy says:
A simple flower crown/ headband in soft, flattering colours… this is the summer of the flower-crown, and this one isn't too over the top. It wouldn't be out of place anywhere. Ideal for a boho beach look, but just as much fun for summer in the city!

Pic three…
Manda says:
Again, all the shiny gold bits and the little gems make it more suitable for evening/party wear I think… probably worn with something fairly plain! I do really like this. I like that you can be all classy and elegant while still remaining in the spirit of summer - although I think you could still get away with this at other times of the year!

Cathy says:
Stay golden! This glittering headband has its own glitz and glamour appeal, but neatly avoids being flash or fussy. It suits Manda's colouring and would be cool for a swish city break holiday… or a party night back at home.

Pic four…
Manda says:
This one is just really girly, cute, simple and somewhat old-fashioned, so basically I love it a lot! I'm getting a bit of a vintage schoolgirl vibe from it, which is definitely cool! Again, I don't know how well it would go with the contents of my wardrobe, but if I could find something to match I feel like I might wear this one a lot. It seems like it could easily fit with both everyday and also more special occasions!

Cathy says:
This is my favourite. It's cute, fresh and fun with a great vintage twist, and though it's simple it really pulls Manda's look together. Anywhere, any place, any time… super-cute.

OK… your turn, now! COMMENT BELOW to cast your vote for YOUR fave accessory… which one would YOU choose, and where would you wear it?

Monday, 25 August 2014

THE BIG CLEAR OUT!

Reader Helena decided to have a big clear out of old and unwanted toys and junk… find out how her tidy-up turned into a charity fundraiser!

Helena says:
Back at the beginning of the summer holidays I decided to have a big clear out of stuff I no longer needed and had grown out of, but instead of taking everything along to our local community shop, I decided to raise money for Cancer Research UK. A friend of ours does LOTS and LOTS of fundraising for Cancer Research and organises the local Relay for Life event. That's a huge family event - people can camp overnight - which lasts 24 hours. There are lots of games and fun activities for children and we are all coming together as one group to raise money to beat cancer. I would like to be a medical scientist and a magician when I grow up, and help to cure diseases like cancer. This seemed like something I could do in the meantime.

I designed a poster and it went onto the local Relay for Life page, and friends helped to distribute it around town. Then basically, I took over the pavement in front of Mum and Dads bookshop. One day it rained really hard so I sat inside the door and still got some money! I sold a lot of games, toys, books and bits and pieces and people were really nice about it. I think they liked the idea that I was raising money for a good cause! I also had a 'guess the birthday' game, for a Minnie Mouse toy, which I am still going to do. I have raised over £100. It was a lot of fun, a bit of a challenge at times, but it was worth it!

Cathy says:
I love Helena's idea - sometimes the simplest ideas are the best! It looks like she had a lot of fun, too, and raised a lot of money… how cool? COMMENT BELOW to share YOUR charity find-raising attempts or to give a shout-out to Helena for her achievement!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

IMOGEN: MUM WORKS WITH HELICOPTERS!

Another in our occasional series about inspiring mums and daughters… we meet Imogen and Denise!

Denise (mum) says:
I work as a receptionist in a helicopter flying school. I oversee the business each weekend and sometimes deal with confidential paperwork as well as managing the electronic diary, bookings, cancellations and allocating aircraft; I take care of the visitors to the school, in short! I have a lot of responsibility and I thoroughly enjoy it!

Imogen is a great daughter; she's funny and she makes me laugh when I really don't want to! She's very kind, caring and compassionate, with both people and animals. She adores animals and wants to be a vet when she grows up - at her age, I was exactly the same! Imogen attends our local Stagecoach Theatre Arts School where she has classes in dancing, singing and drama. Every year around Easter, the students put on a show for friends and family. I love watching her and seeing how her confidence has grown over the years! She's a great swimmer, too, and swims for the local team, and I am so proud of her.

The two of us get on really well most of the time; things only go downhill if either of us are quite tired, and then we can become a bit snappy! It never lasts long, though… one of us will accept the blame, we have a big hug and the grumpiness is forgotten. I encourage Imogen to talk to me about anything she would like to; we both enjoy chatting to each other and I think this communication is the basis of a great relationship. My wish for Imogen is that she stays healthy and happy and achieves all her dreams… I believe she will!

Imogen (daughter) says:
My mum is totally the best in the world. She has inspired me in so many ways! She encourages me to be kind to animals - sometimes we rescue poorly animals and Mum teaches me how to nurse them in a caring and gentle way. We then let them go into the wild when they are strong enough. Mum also
encourages me to try my hardest at all times, no matter how I feel, and to stay calm as much as possible in tests.

I absolutely LOVE my mum's job as she works around helicopters, which is amazing - not many people get to do that! She brings me a cupcake that she saves for me every weekend when she returns home. There is a downside to Mum's work for me, because she works at weekends and this limits the amount of time I can spend with her. I think we are quite similar in some ways, as we like most of the same things and have lots of fun together. I try to support my mum in turn with her swimming, by showing her how at ease I am in the water to let her see there is nothing to worry about. I think my mum and I get on very well… we hardly ever fall out!

Cathy says:
It's clear the bond between Denise and Imogen is very strong - and I love that they share many of the same interests and values! Do YOU have an awesome mum? COMMENT BELOW to give her a shout-out or make a comment on this feature!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

JADE: I'M A YOUNG CARER

Reader Jade describes what it's like to have to look after your family… even when you're still a child yourself…

Jade says:
I'm seventeen years old and I'm a young carer from Scotland; I've been a young carer ever since I can remember, and have been attending the Young Carers support group since I was nine. A young carer is someone who looks after a family member with an illness, disability, mental health or substance abuse problem. Young carers tend to take on tasks involving practical or emotional support that adults would normally do.

In my family, myself and two of my sisters are young carers; we look after our brother, who has Autism and developmental delay, and my mum who has some mental health issues. My brother likes to stick to a schedule and if it varies or goes wrong he can get extremely upset and angry, which can be hard to handle. He also gets very anxious in a crowd and cannot hold his emotions in.

My mum has BPD (borderline personality disorder) so I have to look after my youngest sister so mum can get to all her appointments and groups. Sometimes there are just too many calls on my time and it outweighs my ability to do more than one thing at once. The friends I have made though the Young Carers support group get this completely, but not everyone at school is able to understand. Some did and some didn't, so often I kept quiet about what was happening at home. The teachers knew my background, and that helped.

The Young Carers support group helps people in my situation to meet others in the same boat and to make friends. There are also support workers who can offer one-to-one chat and support. In the summer there is a big Young Carer's Festival which hundreds of young carers attend. There are indoor and outdoor activities, a silent disco, music and things like Indian head massage. We can stay in a small cabin or a tent, like a real festival. This year will be my first time at the festival and I can't wait!

I guess people may think it is very hard being a young carer, and sometimes it is, but I appreciate the support from Young Carer's group and I love my family. This is my life - it's just the way things are for me, and a lot of the time I take it in my stride.

Find out more about Young Carers here: http://www.youngcarers.net

Cathy says:
Jade is a very strong and caring girl… her support and care make life a lot easier for both her brother and her mum. COMMENT BELOW if you'd like to share your support with Jade, or if YOU have ever had to act as a young carer yourself...

Friday, 22 August 2014

CLASS OF 2014: GETTING READY!

The second in our series following five girls as they prepare for secondary school… with term time getting closer, how are they feeling?

Carys says:
We went shopping for school uniform at the beginning of the holidays - I'm so small that they decided that if they needed to order anything specially, at least they'd have the whole of the holidays to do it! (Or maybe my mum just wanted it out of the way!) Our uniform is a maroon jumper and skirt, a white blouse and black trousers. The tie is clip on (my mums thinks that's cheating, what do you think?). I'm still really excited about starting school - seeing my old primary friends and making some new ones!d a bag too… it wasn't easy, as it had to be big, but not TOO big! Only two weeks now to the start of term! I'm a little sad about leaving primary, but the excitement of starting a new school has really kicked in now so I'm feeling less sad by the minute - I can't wait to see my old primary friends and make some new ones!

Emma says:
I've got my uniform sorted, which was super-scary - it's very different to my old one, and it even has to have my name on every single item! I'm still getting all my supplies ready - bags, pens, pencil case… but I need a lot more stationery because I have a feeling there's going to be a lot more work! I still have a few bits and pieces of uniform to find, too, but I'm almost there. As the days get closer I am getting more and more excited… not long now!

Imogen says:
As the time gets closer I am getting more and more nervous about starting high school - I am scared I won't be able to keep track of all my classes! But I know there will be people to ask, and I'll have a map. I will be walking in on the first day with my older sister - on the day I start high school, she starts sixth form! I have got most of my uniform now but I still need half of my stationery. I have got a clip-on tie which is great - I won't have to learn how to tie a tie! Mum got me a pocket-sized dictionary and covered it in Cath Kidston paper, which is cool… and it's my birthday soon, so I'm hoping to get some school stationery then!

Pippa says:
I'm happy to say that my negative feelings about starting secondary school have vanished. Any arguments with my old friends from primary have been made up, which I am really pleased about… we will be there for each other in secondary school, but we know we are all moving on too and that's the best thing, really. I have loved shopping for my new school supplies. I absolutely adore the colours and patterns on my new satchel - I can't wait to try it out for real. And my shoes are potentially the nicest shoes I have ever had! When I first tried on my blazer, I looked extremely odd… but with my shirt and a thick jumper underneath, I understood why I had to get such a large one! I also have a skirt, some trousers and new hair bows just for the fun of it! I can't wait to get my pencil case as well… I already have most of my other stationery. I can't wait to start!

Sophie says:
I am looking forward to starting school! I got my hair cut to my neck… I had eleven inches cut from it in February and now it's even shorter - Mum says it looks like an old lady's cut! I have a black blazer, white shirt, black trousers and black Converse trainers, The uniform cost loads. The shirts look like men's shirts, which I like. My uniform at primary was brown and we had to wear a skirt, so this new uniform is way better. I've got a new Green Day bag and some cool new stationery… I'm as ready as I will ever be!


Cathy says:
Time is ticking by… the girls will soon be starting their new schools! Check in soon to see how their FIRST DAY goes! COMMENT BELOW to tell us if YOU are ready for the new school term… or to wish Carys, Emma, Imogen, Pippa or Sophie luck!

EILISH: I LIVE IN NEW ZEALAND!

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

THE SUMMER OF SEEING BLUE...

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

THE BEST HOLIDAY EVER...

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

SUMMER STYLE REPORT: FLOWER CROWNS!

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? 
;o)

Sunday, 17 August 2014

CRAFTY GIRL: MAKE A COOL BOOK NECKLACE!

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 http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/jewellery-making/threads-and-elastics ) 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 - http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/beads-unlimited-beads-midi-trigger-clasp-10-pack/577164-1000.  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

HURTING ON THE INSIDE

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 www.childline.org can help too. COMMENT BELOW to share your story or to offer support to the girls in this feature.

HAZEL: MUM IS MY BIGGEST SUPPORTER!

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!