Tuesday, 31 March 2015

WHAT'S YOUR NAME?

Readers with cool and unusual names tell us what they like/ dislike about having a name that is a little different!


Zantay says:
I think my name is pretty unique… well, it is in my school and my town, anyway! Mum made it up from two names put together, and once she said it aloud she really liked it. I was named before I was born, and it's a good job I was a girl - not sure a boy would have suited the name quite so much! People often compliment my name and it helps me to stand out from the crowd, which I like! I get called Zany, Zants or Zaz, which is fine. Some of my friends have the same names as each other so need to use their surnames to tell which one someone is talking about… at least that's not an issue with me! The downsides are that people often pronounce the name wrong, saying 'Zante' or 'Zanta' and I can never buy personalised things from the shops… I don't mind that now but I did when I was little! Also, anything done in alphabetical order means that I am last - although sometimes that can be a good thing, too!

Thianna says:
My name is quite unusual - some might say 'odd'! My mum thought she saw it in a newspaper, but it turned out that she completely made it up… haha! It is pronounced Thee-Anna, but lots of the teachers at my school pronounce it wrong - they say Thee-Arna or Tee-Arna. If I tell them they're wrong, do they take any notice? No! I am quite happy with my name because it's different, and I don't do normal. It's good to have a name nobody else has! To be honest I like having an unusual name, but it's not something I think about too much - it's just my name!

Cliodhna says:
My name is pronounced 'Cleen-na'. The bad thing about having an unusual name is that most people have a bit of trouble pronouncing and spelling it! Quite often they will have to ask my name a good few times before they can actually pronounce it, and as for spelling it… let's not even go there! I have seen some very strange variations! The good thing about having an unusual name is that you feel unique - nobody in my class has the same name as me, and I love that! My name means 'shapely' in Irish. In Irish legend, it was the name of a beautiful goddess. It is both an English and and Irish Gaelic name with a Celtic origin.

Semra says:
My name is Turkish in origin and it translates to 'dark brunette' which is ironic because I have light brown hair! My mother always told me she named me after her mum's best friend, who returned to Turkey a few years ago. Mum's name is Tamara Semra, so my name is her middle name too! All my family love my name - they think it's unique and beautiful. I however do not share their views. I wouldn't go so far as to say I hate my name, but there are downsides! People are always pronouncing my name wrong or spelling it wrong, and that gets a little annoying. The strangest spelling I've ever had was 'Semiera' which is quite funny, thinking back! One thing I will say is that whoever I meet always seems to remember me if I happen to bump into them again, and I know that is because of my name. I do get compliments and people always ask about the name, too, and I love to answer those questions!

Cathy says:
Great names… and I love reading about the meanings and origins, too! Have YOU got a cool name? Or are you happiest blending into the background? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 30 March 2015

PENNY: I DIDN'T KNOW WHO TO TRUST...

When reader Penny began to get spiteful messages on Facebook, she began to doubt her best friend…


Penny says:
I had been friends with Jayde, Alex and Dina for ages. Jayde was my best friend, and Alex and Dina were close too, and then in Year Seven a girl called Lauren joined our group. She was nice, really cool and funny. For a while it seemed like she was trying to be my best friend, gossiping a bit about Jayde, but I didn't like that and Lauren got the message, and we all settled into what I thought was a good friendship.

Lauren had a Facebook page and she encouraged us to get one too, even though we weren't officially old enough; everyone was doing it, and it seemed like a laugh. We could chat and message really easily. I'd got a smartphone the summer before, so it was fun taking selfies and putting them up on my page; the others did the same - it was fun. Then one night I got a message from Lauren saying the others were fed up with me - they were saying that I thought I was better than them. Lauren thought I ought to know what they'd been saying behind my back. I was upset - I didn't know why they'd turn on me like that, what I'd done to deserve it. Lauren said she thought Jayde was jealous that I was friendly with her. I was so upset I ended up having a late-night Facebook row with Jayde, Alex and Dina. It was horrible… other friends saw and joined in too, and it all got out of hand. By the next day, none of us were speaking. Lauren told me to let things cool down so we could all be friends again, but the fall-out dragged on and on. It looked like we'd never patch things up. Lauren acted as a go-between but in the end she said they had totally turned against me and that I'd be better off without them.

One day, Jayde turned up on my doorstep and demanded to know why I'd let Lauren come between us. I said she was the only one who hadn't said horrible things about me, but Jayde said actually Lauren had been spreading nasty rumours about me by Facebook message. She'd told Jayde and the others that I thought they were vain and full of themselves - exactly what she had said they were saying about me. We realised Lauren was trying to break us all up, sending messages that stirred up trouble and then acting all innocent. I cut things off with Lauren after that, and things went back to normal with Jayde, Alex and Dina, and we are probably stronger now because although Lauren tried to  turn us against each other she didn't succeed.

We were lucky. Lauren joined another group and a little while later they broke up and Lauren went off with one of them, then dumped her again a few months on. If I see her now, I don't speak to her; she scares me. She looks so innocent, but she's not. She enjoys breaking friendships to pieces.

All names have been changed to protect those concerned. Pictures posed by model Lucy; thank you!

Cathy says:
It sounds like Penny had a very lucky escape. Have YOU ever had a friend who was an enemy in disguise? COMMENT BELOW and have your say (don't mention any names… let's keep this friendly!)

Saturday, 28 March 2015

ASH: TO ALL THE DREAMERS...

Reader Ash has a message for all you dreamers… and it's an awesome one!

Ash says:
Where do I start? How about hello? There, now that's over with. My name's Ash and I'm fourteen and a particular fan of the Chocolate Box series which I've been reading for a while and have really gotten into, probably more than any other series of books. But enough about me… how are YOU feeling? What's the weather like where you are right now? Oh, silly question. It's dark now. Can you see the stars? From my house, you're lucky if you can see a single star in the sky. Lots of planes, though. Wishing on planes isn't the same though, is it? I've been told wishing isn't worth it, but to quote Kian from Scarlett, 'Wishing is for dreamers,' and I quite fancy myself as a bit of a dreamer.

I love to dream. Anything's possible when you're dreaming - the only limits are the ones you place on yourself. Even nightmares don't really bother me, even the ones that are full of never-ending darkness. I mean, without darkness, you can't see stars or fireworks, right? I love fireworks. I just love watching the colours as they explode into the air around me, falling back down to earth like fallen angels.I remember when I was younger I used to cower in fright because I thought they'd fall down on my head. I'm more mature now, but fireworks are a theme I like to reference in my stories.

I'm a novice at story-writing but I have time to perfect my skills, right? Though I suppose nobody's ever really perfect. That's the fun of it, surely? Improving and improving, coming up with a new piece that's even better than the last. My friends tell me I have a way with words, but I'm not sure if that's true. Others say I'm odd because I think about things in a different way - but hey, I take 'odd' as a compliment. I'd rather be the oddest person on earth and see the beauty and intrigue of everything, from fireworks in the night sky to the crashing of waves on the sand in Brighton or Brean, than not be odd and see beauty only in what's on TV or in a magazine. I'm not sure if I have a way with words, but I know I have a lot of them to say. And I know I'm a dreamer, and I am glad about that. To all of you dreamers out there… thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Maybe strangers are the best listeners… they don't know too much about you, won't sugarcoat the truth the way your friends might. Keep on dreaming!

Cathy says:
Wow… I LOVE this! I think Ash DOES have a way with words… and I am all for dreaming, as you know! Are YOU a dreamer? COMMENT BELOW to have your say! 

JANE GREY: THE NINE DAY QUEEN

Another in our series about extraordinary women from history; we find out about Jane Grey, the fifteen-year-old who was queen for nine days in 1553…

Jane Grey was an English noblewoman and the great granddaughter of King Henry VII; she was very intelligent and well educated and spoke French, Greek, Latin and Italian fluently. From the age of ten she had lived as part of the household of King Henry VIII's his last queen, Katherine Parr. When she was thirteen, Jane began to appear at court - Henry's son Edward VI was king at this point, but he was just a teenager too, and in poor health. The power lay in the hands of the ambitious Duke of Northumberland, who was the young king's regent. As it became apparent that the young king was dying, Northumberland began to formulate a plot to hang onto his power… a plot which involved the young Jane Grey.

In an era where young women had very little say over their futures, Jane was married off to Guildford Dudley, Northumberland's son. Jane had a claim on the throne of England, and Northumberland pressured the dying king to name her as his successor, in an attempt to stop the Edward's half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth from taking the throne. In short, Northumberland hoped to rule England through his new daughter-in-law; Jane's own father, Suffolk, was only too happy to go along with the plan.

When Edward VI died on July 6th 1553, Jane Grey succeeded to the throne; history tells us she was persuaded against her will by a powerful group of noblemen and overseas envoys. When this was publicly proclaimed, however, the country rose to rally around the old king's half-sister, Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII. To the people of England, the name of Tudor stood for stability, and the idea of placing a 'puppet queen', an unknown teenager, on the throne was not something they would support. Seeing that public support was against them, first the Duke of Northumberland and then Jane's own father abandoned her to support Mary. On July 19th 1553, Mary was proclaimed queen and Jane Grey was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Queen Mary is thought to have wished to spare the life of Jane Grey, but Jane, a protestant, would not convert to catholicism. To make matters worse, her father joined a failed rebellion against Queen Mary which sealed Jane's fate. Jane Grey and her husband were found guilty of treason and executed on February 12th 1554, and Jane went down in history as the 'nine day queen.' While Jane was almost certainly a pawn in a power-game between her father and the Duke of Northumberland, a compelling film, 'Lady Jane', starring Helena Bonham Carter (pictured right), brings her story to life and paints a picture of a romantic, daring and hopeful bid by two teenagers to change the way England was ruled.

Cathy says:
Jane Grey's story has always captivated me; a teenage girl with a distant claim to the throne was used shamelessly by her father and the power-hungry noblemen and ultimately sacrificed. She paid the price of their greed with her life, but if it had been different… if she had succeeded… what then? Did YOU know the story of Jane Grey? COMMENT BELOW to have your say, or to tell us which female characters from history you would like to see featured on DREAMCATCHER!

Friday, 27 March 2015

MARIE: BIG HAIR, FLUORESCENT LYCRA & ELECTRO-POP...

Another in our cool series on growing up in a different decade… meet Marie, who was a teen in the 1980s…


Marie says:
I was thirteen in 1983. Big hair, fluorescent lycra and electro-pop, I embraced them all in my early teens; it wasn't exactly the coolest look, but at least the neon socks I wore brought some colour to my dull surroundings! I grew up in Runcorn; the estate I lived on was OK, but there was absolutely nothing to do. I spent the first part of my teens waiting for Wham's Andrew Ridgely to turn up on his ski-doo and rescue me… I was sure that somewhere, there was a world just like the one in the Last Christmas video, where a girl like me could live happily ever after. As I got older, I realised I was quite capable of rescuing myself - I just had to work hard at school and get the grades for university. So that's what I did!

I loved Sixth Form. The people who had made my life hard at school earlier on had now left to get jobs, and there was no longer so much pressure to fit in. I discovered hair dye and indie music and never looked back. With a Saturday job in a local newsagents I had money too! I started to go to alternative nights at clubs in Liverpool and Warrington, where I danced to bands like the Smiths, New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen. Whilst my music taste definitely improved, my fashion sense was still questionable. Leaving the neon socks and lycra behind, my new uniform consisted of loud flowery dresses, shabby cardigans and Doc Marten boots. I remember my friend's mum telling me I looked like a bag lady - parents didn't really do that whole positive psychology thing back then!

Luckily, I had thick skin. I was part of a big, extended family of Liverpudlians, and quickly learnt not to take myself too seriously. Friends and fashion came and went, but my family were always there for me. I didn't just have mum and dad but my aunties, uncles and cousins too… dozens of them! There was always someone I could talk to and somewhere I felt safe and wanted. Things went wrong when a teacher taught us the wrong A level geography syllabus and I didn't get the grades I needed for university. Rather than go through clearing I got a job, but hated it… and with my heart set on journalism I applied to study Communication Studies in Nottingham. I changed my mind about working in the media but fell in love with Nottingham… being nineteen in a new city, with new friends and new opportunities was simply awesome!

Cathy says:
I love this… awesome indeed! Marie now lives in Manchester with her family and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing; she still wears loud dresses and shabby cardigans! Would YOU have enjoyed being a teen in the 80s? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

FINCH'S CHELSEA BUNS...

Why not try reader Chloe's fab recipe for Chelsea buns… just the kind of thing London boy Finch might make! They sound yum…

You will need…
500g strong white flour
pinch salt
60g butter
7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast
30g caster sugar
200ml warm milk
1 egg, beaten
sunflower oil
clear honey

For the filling…
60g butter
30g light muscovado sugar
2 handfuls sultanas

1. Put the flour in a bowl, stir in salt. Rub in yeast and butter and stir in sugar.
2. Make a well in the middle and pour in egg and milk to make a soft dough. Knead until smooth and stretchy.
3. Place in an oiled bowl. Cover in oiled clingfilm and leave for 1 hour.
(Tick tock, tick tock!)
4. Make the filling: cream butter and sugar together and mix in sultanas.
5. Oil a roasting tin.
6. Turn out dough and knead. Roll into a square, spread filling over then roll up and cut into slices.
7. Lay in tin, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave for half an hour.
(Tick tock, tick tock!)
8. Bake at 200 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Glaze with honey (or sprinkle with icing sugar if preferred) and serve warm!

Finch might make these to impress Skye… what do you think?

Cathy says:
Ooh… these sound so gorgeous! Do YOU have a favourite recipe to share? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

HOPE: A SONG FOR HONEY!

Reader Hope has put together a cool playlist for Honey Tanberry… would they make a cool soundtrack to her life?

Hope says:
One song that springs to mind when I think of Honey is Blank Space by Taylor Swift… because, obviously, Honey has gone through a very long list of exes. It basically sums up everything Honey gets up to when she's out with her unsuitable boyfriends!

Next on the 'Honey agenda' is Sk8er Boi by Avril Lavigne. This song really fits with Honey for me and one line stands out: 'She had  pretty face but her head was up in space, she needs to come back down to earth!' I think this illustrates the fact that Honey may be pretty on the outside, but that she fills her head up with dreams that can never come true… like her dad coming home. It also echoes the way Honey acts towards others, like they are not good enough for her. The song can be seen to be as about Cherry and Shay too… especially the line 'I see the soul that is inside,' as I get the feeling that Honey only cared about the fact that Shay was popular and good looking, whereas Cherry could see beyond that.

My next choice is Since You've Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson. To me, it shows the way Honey puts up a wall when Shay becomes Cherry's boyfriend, acting like she doesn't care and pretending that things have been better since he left in order to hide the hurt inside.

Of course, Honey goes to live in Australia with her dad, and for this stage of her story I have chosen I Feel Good, an old song by Nina Simone. The phrase 'It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me…' reflects Honey's chance to start again in Australia, making friends that will be loyal and hopefully won't go out every night causing trouble!

Finally, I've chosen Bulletproof by La Roux; there's not much to say about this song except that the lyrics are very boisterous, loud and in-your-face, just like Honey herself! Some of the lyrics are about moving on to things new, but others are about not getting in someone's way (or having to face the consequences!) Which is exactly what Honey is trying to say to her family throughout the series…

Cathy says:
Great choices! Do YOU agree? Are there any extra tracks you would add to a playlist for Honey Tanberry? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 23 March 2015

DREAMCATCHER GUIDE TO BEING HAPPY...

I asked my readers what their top tips for instant happiness were… this is what they said!

Amy says:
It sounds weird, but I like to melt a big bar of Cadbury's and mix in rice crispies and marshmallows and eat it warm… it's like melted crispie cakes, and it always cheers me up!

Emily says:
Don't worry about what others think of you. I have spent a lot of my life feeling anxious about this and honestly, it takes far too much time and energy. Be your own person. Do what makes you happy and be proud of it! No two people are the same so celebrate the differences and remember this is YOUR life!

Shirley says:
I go outside, shut the door and sit on the back step. That's it, really. A couple of minutes and everything feels better!

Gina says:
A best friend and a cuppa!

Deborah R says:
I like to take my dog for a walk somewhere beautiful, or else watch funny cat videos on Youtube. They always cheer me up and make me laugh hysterically, no matter how rubbish I feel!

Sara says:
Chocolate!

Emma says:
One Direction… those boys are the only reason I keep going, sometimes!




Abigail says:
Books, minions, lip balms, The Dumping Ground.

Annie says:
A Cathy Cassidy book and a big bag of Skittles!

Sristi says:
Hugs, bffs, a good book, kindness and a long, comfy lie in!

Kellie says:
I am getting into anti-stress colouring books… very cool, and they really work!

Deborah A says:
Happy music, fun games, friends, family, a good book, a good movie… all of those things can warm the spirit!

Veronica says:
Helping others makes me happy…

Cathy says:
What is YOUR favourite get-happy fix? Mine would be listening to music, walking in the countryside or chilling out with friends! COMMENT BELOW to tell us YOUR top tips!

BE A GOOD SPORT!

Are you a sporty girl? Readers share their passion for a favourite sport or activity… could one of them be the perfect hobby for YOU?


Grace says:
I've been able to swim ever since I can remember. We lived in America when I was younger, in Miami, and we had a pool, so being able to swim was essential. I loved it, but when I was five or so we moved to New Zealand and although there was no more pool I began taking swimming lessons. The lessons were once a week, but my friends and I were at the swimming pool all the time, we thought it was awesome. I moved up a couple of levels and was doing well, and then I hit a level that seemed harder; I was one of the younger ones and I wasn't ready to move up, so I stayed in that group for a while longer. At that point we moved again, and although I started lessons again I didn't pass the next level and I was stuck with girls younger than me, and I began to lose interest. It was winter and wet and cold, and I decided to give up. I wish I'd kept going now, but perhaps it was for the best. I still love swimming and my family and I go to the beach whenever we can - that way I have all the fun and none of the pressure!


Izzy says:
I love hockey. I practise every Sunday morning and I have county training some Fridays and Sundays too as for the last two seasons I have played for Notts County. I like it because I'm with my friends, and it's fun - I play at a small club and all the coaches are really friendly and get to know you well. It's a friendly place with a great atmosphere and good team spirit! I got started when I was about seven, because my sister was playing  and kept telling me how much fun it was; at first, I didn't want to but now I really wish I'd started earlier because I enjoy it so much! The down side is that I don't get to have a lie in on a Sunday because training starts quite early… and if it's cold and wet, that's not always great! Overall, though, it's a brilliant sport!

Isabelle says:
I like running because it's an outside thing; I love running in the sun, but I also love the rain and the mud and the wind! There's just something about running that makes me feel really happy. I run with a team which helps you to stay motivated and to push yourself, and I have competed quite a few times, too. If anyone reading this is thinking of giving running a try, I would definitely say do it - and never give up! Running can be hard going, but if you believe you can do it then you can. If you aim to run two or three times a week, you'll soon be fit enough, trust me!

Stephanie says:
I started football fairly recently. I train with my college's SLD group (specific learning difficulties). Since then, my confidence has soared! Every week we play matches and games in training, and once a month there is a tournament. The good bit about football is that it's fantastic exercise and has really developed my confidence and skills. The only downside I can think of is when we have to do circuit training… waah!

Cathy says:
All of these sports sound amazing… would any of them suit you? COMMENT BELOW to tell me about your favourite sport!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

KRISS: THE SNEAKY BULLY

Reader Kriss describes what it's like to be targetted by a clever bully…

Kriss says:
I raise my hand in class to make a comment and she raises her eyebrows and whispers nasty things about me to her friends. They all laugh. At lunchtime, a groups of my classmates sit together and I try to stop myself from shaking as I sit down. She is sneaky with this sort of thing. She makes everyone turn their backs, and I am left so shamed I get up and head for the library. Lately, I have been trying to avoid her. I only have a couple of friends, both in the year above me, and I try to sit with them in the library, the art room, the music room. I am the victim of a sneaky bully, one who never gets caught.

She moved to my primary in Year 5, and everyone fell for her. At first, I did too, but soon she began to do nasty things. She'd invite everyone but me to play, ask everyone in the class but me to her birthday party, laugh at me in PE. It's all quite subtle. She is sneaky, and only does things that others don't notice. If I try to tell a classmate, they laugh and say 'What? She's so nice!'

It has been five years now; five whole years, and things are still bad. If I make a new friend, she steps in, blocks me out, spoils it all. I have told my parents and they've met her; they believe me. Mum suggested talking to the school, but her parents are teachers at my secondary school and it would be awkward and difficult to complain. Dad said I could change schools, but there isn't another suitable school nearby. I am left counting down the years, months, weeks until I leave school and escape this nightmare.

If you are going through something similar, please speak out early on and nip things in the bud; the mistake I made was waiting so long to reach out. If you cannot tell a teacher, do what I do and write in a diary to vent your feelings, or paint, walk, take a bubble bath, hang out with family and pets… anything that helps you de-stress. If you can, ignore the bully. You are strong, independent, beautiful, amazing and talented; they are not worth your sadness, not worth your time of day.

Names have been changed, and the picture was posed by model Georgia. Many thanks!

Cathy says:
Do you think Kriss is right to stay silent? What would YOU do? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

BOBBY: HOW I GOT TO BE COCO!

Bobby, the talented winner of our 'Could You Be Coco' comp tells us all about how she landed the CCTV role…

Bobby says:
It's been almost two years now since I landed the role of Coco for CCTV - but it doesn't seem that long ago at all! It came about by pure chance, really. My sisters and mum had been to one of Cathy's talks where she mentioned the comp to find someone to play Coco. I wanted to try out as I'd read and loved Cathy's books, but never expected I'd get anywhere. I sent in my video audition and couldn't believe it when I got a call saying I was a finalist. I had to go to London for a final audition with other hopefuls, and I met Cathy and some of the Puffin team. Imagine my shock and excitement when I got a call to say I had the part!

When you're playing a character you have to stop thinking like you and start thinking like them; consider what your character would do in any situation… how would they react? Coco is such a bubbly, excitable character with very strong opinions. It was fun getting into her head and making sense of the world from her perspective!

Talking with a camera in your face and people standing around watching you can be really off-putting… it is very different from performing in a theatre! It was much harder than I'd expected and I'd never done anything like it before. It suddenly became a lot harder for me to let the character of Coco shine out… but after a few practice runs I managed to get into it and I let Coco take over. In my mind, she has so many thoughts and things to say that race around her head; being the youngest sister her opinion isn't always taken seriously so she does enjoy a good rant now and then! Acting was relatively new to me, but I was determined to give this a go and put myself out of my comfort zone. If you never try anything new, life would be pretty dull, right?

Becoming Coco was an amazing experience for me and a great learning curve as a young actress. I still often find myself thinking 'What would Coco do?' Why don't you guys try it too? Think of your favourite CC character and put yourself in their shoes for a day… you might really enjoy it! Whatever happens, take every opportunity that comes your way… you never know where it could lead you!

Keep on being fabulous… see you later!

Check out some of the fab CCTV episodes here… http://www.cathycassidy.com/cathycassidytv

Cathy says:
Brilliant! It's awesome to hear about Bobby's experiences of playing Coco on CCTV! Which CC character would YOU most like to play? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 20 March 2015

NARINDER: OLD SCHOOL BLAZERS FESTOONED WITH SAFETY PINS...

Another in our fab series about growing up in a different decade… we talk to Narinder, who was a teen in the 1970s!


Narinder says:
The best thing about being a teen in the seventies? I've got to say punk rock, a massive explosion of a different kind of music led by The Clash and The Sex Pistols. At the beginning, we wore skinny jeans (we called them drainpipes back then), white shirts, ties and an old school blazer or leather jacket festooned with safety pins and lots of badges of our favourite bands. It was exciting and subversive and it was fabulous to be in the middle of it.

Going to university was a massive part of my seventies life. I met my husband there and made lifelong friends. It was more difficult to get in then, as there were fewer places available, but if you were from a lower-paid, working class family, as I was, you received a grant from your local education authority and they also paid your tuition fees. Student loans didn't exist.

The not so good? Well, there was no tech stuff then, obviously. We had landlines to make calls or old-fashioned red phone boxes, and we wrote letters (shock!). We survived, but I class that as a bad thing now because I love, love, love my smartphone, my iPad, my MacBook…

There's one thing I certainly don't miss from that time. People felt entitled to stop and stare at my family in the streets - and even make unpleasant comments - because my dad is Indian and my mum is white. People felt entitled to stop and stare at my family in the streets - and even make unpleasant comments - because my dad is Indian and my mum is white. Mixed race couples were rare in those times and, despite the current debate about immigration, I really believe that today, the majority of people are much more tolerant.

Cathy says:
I remember all of this… fascinating! These days, Narinder Dhami is a super-successful children's and teen author… check out her brilliant book Bend It Like Beckham or her fab Babes series! Would YOU have liked growing up in the 1970s? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

DEBORAH: FAITH IS EVERYTHING...

Another in our occasional series about readers with a strong religious faith… we talk to Deborah, who is a Christian.

Deborah says:
My parents are both strong Christians and were always going to make sure I was christened and baptised. They attended a church which was part of a big community of churches called New Covenant; there were always joint services and lots of people, with fun days and child pantomimes as well as a weekly Sunday service.

In 2011 my parents decided to open up their own church, a branch of the community of churches we were a part of. Our branch is run by my family. My dad is the pastor, my mum handles announcements and beginning prayer, my brother is the computer man, my sister is the solo choirist and I play the keyboards! The church is still small as far as members go, but that's fine - it feels more like the House of God that way, anyway!

My schedule has a lot of my religion in it. Every weekday morning we all come together for Morning Devotion, a reading from a book of Bible quotes with messages for the day inside. We pray together for a good day. On Wednesdays we have Bible Study where we read a chapter of a book of the Bible and discuss it; my school does something similar on a Wednesday break time, so I go to that too! We sometimes have Youth events - in September we had Mega Praise where youth from all branches of the church came together to sing and there's a special choir I am a part of, too.

To me, faith is everything. God is someone I can go to when I feel alone; I always find refuge in Him. I get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I praise Him and sometimes I wish worship didn't always end so fast! Music is what really connects me to God, and I well and truly love Him - he's the reason I am who I am!

Cathy says:
Wow… it's great to read about such a strong faith! Are YOU a practising Christian? Or do you follow a different religion? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more! If you'd like to write about YOUR religion for DREAMCATCHER, email me via the 'email cathy' link on www.cathycassidy.com to let me know!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

AUDREY: WE'RE MOVING ABROAD...

Reader Audrey has a difficult problem for Honey Tanberry to solve… will you agree with Honey's advice?

Audrey says:
I am really worried and I need your advice. My parents want to move abroad. They are quite serious about it and are planning dates. I am so nervous. I mean, I don't want to leave behind the rest of our family, school, friends, interests, dogs, rabbit… what if I can't bring my pets? I have never had a real 'best friend' before so I am going to find it really hard to adjust and fit in. I am also worried about how I will cope with schooling in another country, and how to choose hobbies and clubs. I am happy where I am now and I really, really don't want to go.


Honey says:
I chose to move overseas and make a fresh start in Australia (even if it didn't last long!) but I can see how being forced to move would feel very different. You need to talk to your parents, and fast. No wonder you have worries when you don't know the details of what is happening. When are you moving? Where? What will your new home be like? Are your pets coming? You need all these answers. You don't say where you are moving, but I bet you handle the changes well - I have two friends at the sixth form college where I'm studying now, one from India and one from Poland, who have both had to learn English as they went along, and they have still done pretty well. If you are not naturally outgoing, you may need to make more effort to find new friends, but you have to try - give it your best shot. Sometimes, life takes a turn we don't much like, but rather than try to fight it I have learned (the hard way!) that the only way forward is to accept and adapt. Take a deep breath and embrace the change, see it as an adventure, a challenge. And good luck!

Cathy says:
I think Honey's advice is good - but do YOU agree? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

CHLOE: A SONG FOR SKYE...

Reader Chloe has put together the perfect playlist for Skye Tanberry… read on and see if you agree with her choices!

Chloe says:
My first song for Skye is Enchanted by none other than… Taylor Swift! I'd like to thank the reader who commented on Summer's playlist feature for this, though the comment was anonymous so I can't say thanks properly! The lyrics are, 'When I saw your face all I can say is that I was enchanted to meet you… The night is sparkling, don't you let it go; I'm wonderstruck, blushing all the way home…' This song reminds me of Skye and Finch so much… it's kind of a theme when it comes to Skye! It just perfectly reflects the way she and Finch are together, especially the bit about 'playful conversation'!

The next song is We'll Be The Stars by Sabrina Carpenter. The song shows that hopes and dreams can be achieved - and that's true! The first snippet, 'We are young, we are gold…' reminds me of how Skye didn't believe in ghosts… and then a few weeks later she is chasing one up! Madness! More lyrics: 'All our fears become our hopes, planned out every locked window… we can reach the constellations, just make all our dreams, we are breaking out, no we're never going to turn to dust, all we really need is us, don't be scared to close your eyes, no we're never going to die, we'll be the stars…' This, to me, shows Skye's personal beliefs and hopes for the world. It might not all work out perfectly, but her beliefs will stick with her.

My final song is Wonderland by Taylor Swift again. The song tells the story of Skye and Finch, from fairytale to reality. If you do listen to this song, ignore the last part if listening from Skye's point of view, as that part is not true to her story… keep that in mind! My lyrics are: 'You held on tight to me as nothing is as it seems, spinning out of control, didn't they tell us don't rush into things, haven't you heard what becomes of curious minds, didn't it all seem new and exciting, I felt your arms twisting around me… we found wonderland and you and I got lost in it, and we pretended it could last forever; we found wonderland, you and I got lost in it, life was never worse but never better…' The first part explains the the thrill and excitement of it all, until Skye realises it is not as easy as it looks. That's when the We'll Be The Stars attitude kicks in, and she understands that no matter what, whether a boy is beside her or not, she is special.

Artwork by the awesome Erin Keen.

Cathy says:
Love it! Do YOU agree with Chloe's choices for Skye? What would YOU add? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 16 March 2015

ESTHER: SO YOU WANT TO MAKE A BLOG?

Reader Esther runs the cute Watermelon Gossip blog on Wordpress… here she offers her best tips for beginners on how to create a blog of your own!


Esther says:
I love blogging and my dream is to be a magazine editor when I am older. Have YOU ever wondered what it would be like to make your own website/ blog where you can write about whatever you like? Well, look no further… follow these simple steps and make your dream a reality!

1. Search on Google 'make a Wordpress blog.' There are other sites you could use other than Wordpress, but it's my personal favourite and I recommend it for a first go.

2. Follow on to Wordpress.com and select 'make a blog/website'. Then choose a site address!

3. Fill in your email, username and password, press 'continue' and select the 'free' option.

4. You have now set up a blog! You now have to choose a theme - the format your content is displayed. I'd recommend, to start off with, either 2010 or 2011 theme… however, it does depend on the topic of your blog.

5. Basically, now the sky is the limit! You can do whatever you want on your very own website - you can write posts, pages and more! You can customise the header and colours of your blog too… just experiment and after a while, it will look really cool!

If you enjoy blogging and want to take it all a step further, you could buy a book about Wordpress to help you get better at blogging. There is a good blog called Wonder Forest that helps you make your own blog look beautiful… it has even helped Zoella to make her blog look so fabulous! If you want inspiration, you can take a look at my blog, watermelonclub.wordpress.com

Happy Blogging!

Cathy says:
Ooh, exciting! I use 'Blogger' as the base for my DREAMCATCHER blog, and that's very easy to use too. Will YOU have a go at making a blog? Or do you blog already? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

CATHY: MUMS & DAUGHTERS...

I'm writing this on Mother's Day… a day for showing our mums that we appreciate all the hard work they've put into caring for us and bringing us up. It's a day for cards and breakfast in bed, for coffee and cake in town or homemade cake at home, for a handful of daffodils gathered hastily from the garden or a box of chocolates wrapped in shiny paper, or maybe just a great big hug that says 'I love you'.

My mum was the best mum ever when I was a child. She was fun and caring and always let me know I was loved. When I hit my teens, things got trickier; Mum was seriously ill for several years, and as she struggled to get through I struggled with sudden shyness and lack of confidence. Things were never quite the same… even once she was better, there was a distance there, a sense that neither of us quite understood the other. The rows began, rows that lasted for years. Mum didn't approve of my decision to go to art college, or to go to college at all; she didn't approve of my job choices, the places I lived, my lifestyle, my friends, my boyfriend… not even when he became my husband. The love that had held us together when I was small had turned into heartache. Both of us felt it, but neither of us could seem to change it.

And then came motherhood for me. When my son and daughter were born, I understood at last that fierce love between a mother and her children… even if I do look a bit frazzled in the picture! I loved my kids so much I couldn't imagine ever letting them go, and so I began to understand some of the rift that had come between me and my own mum as I grew up and took my own path through life. My parents moved up to live near us in Scotland when my kids were just toddlers, and Mum proved that she was the best gran in the world. Having kids of my own helped my mum and I to be closer than we had in years.

I tried to learn from the mistakes we'd made, too. When my kids were teenagers, I tried to give them freedom and confidence and opportunities. I was proud when they headed off to uni and I am proud of them now… and fascinated by all the ways in which they are different from me. They will make choices and decisions that I probably wouldn't, but that's OK - they are different, unique, awesome people in their own right, and I love watching their talents, skills and personalities blossom and grow.

So my message on Mother's Day is to love the mum you've got and try not to stress out if she's not perfect… she can't be, because none of us are, but she's doing the best she can. If things have been tough between you, remember it is never too late to change that - these days my mum is very elderly and unwell; she lives with us and we look after her, and the mum-daughter role has kind of reversed.  In a funny way, it feels like a second chance. There's a pic I love of Mum, me and my daughter all together, taken two years ago before Mum got ill again, and I love it… there's a lot of happy in that pic. Of course, if your mum isn't around any longer, remember the good times you shared… and remember that she loved you the best she could.

Have YOU got a message for your mum on Mother's Day? COMMENT BELOW to have your say! 

Friday, 13 March 2015

FRIDA KAHLO: ARTIST AGAINST THE ODDS

Frida Kahlo is one of my favourite artists ever. Find out more about the Mexican girl who overcame great hardship to become an iconic artist…


Cathy says:
Frida Kahlo was born in 1907 on the outskirts of Mexico City; her father was German, her mother Mexican. Frida contracted polio at the age of six which left one leg thinner than the other, but in spite of this she was a spirited and talented teen with big dreams and ambitions to study medicine.

In 1925, aged 18, she was in an accident when a bus collided with a trolley car; this resulted in a broken spinal column, broken collar bone, ribs and pelvis, multiple fractures to one leg and a dislocated shoulder. During her long recovery, and in much pain, Frida began to paint self portraits using a special easel she could use while bed-bound. She once said: 'I paint myself because I am alone so often and becauseI am the subjectI know best.'

Forced by her terrible injuries to abandon a career in medicine, Frida now planned to be an artist. She asked Mexican muralist Diego Rivera for advice on her abilities, and the two soon fell in love and married, though it was to be a stormy relationship. Frida's reputation as an artist grew; she painted many self-portraits and used symbolism and traditional Mexican imagery in her work. Her health had improved a little, but she was to be in pain for much of her life and often painted as a way to explore her feelings and express emotions. Some of her work is difficult to look at in its honesty.

Frida was a strong character. She dressed in traditional Mexican dress, held strong political beliefs and lived a life that was vivid, risky and dramatic. She was a determined and modern woman who lived life on her own terms. She also had more than her fair share of heartbreak and physical pain to endure, but used her art to deal with these. Towards the end of her life, Frida's health problems became extreme and she was often in hospital or confined to bed. She continued to paint, once again using a special easel which allowed her to paint while lying down. In 1953 a large exhibition to celebrate her work was held in Mexico, and Frida had to be carried to the opening on a stretcher. Frida Kahlo died in 1954, aged 47, after a year of serious illness. Her work is as powerful today as it ever was, and her courage, determination, vitality and sheer talent have been an inspiration for many.

Cathy says:
Do YOU have a favourite artist? Or simply an inspirational figure you admire? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

JO: POST PUNK INDIE ROCK CHICK...

Another in our great series about growing up in a different decade… we talk to Jo who was a teenager in the 1980s!

Jo says:
I was a post punk indie rock chick in the 1980s. The most important part of my look was my hair and eyeliner. The eyeliner was easy - kohl pencil had been around since the ancient Egyptians, but spiky hair was quite a new look and there were hardly any hair products available. The only gel was Boots own brand, which came in glass jars and was green or blue. I got through a jar a week. It was really watery and I had to blast my hair with the hairdryer to make sure it had set before applying hairspray on top. The hairspray was designed for old ladies who got their hair set every week at the salon. It wasn't ideal, but still I gassed myself regularly with Silverkrin Ultra Hold spray to get the look I wanted, even though it did bad things to my skin.

My friend Sam and I went to Kensington Market to get our hair cut. Paul, the hairdresser, had professional hair products. KMS gel came in a cool bottle with a lid like a sports water bottle, even though bottled water didn't actually exist back then! KMS was awesome because it worked without the hairdryer and smelt different to Boots gel. Sam squeezed some on her pillowcase so she could sniff it and think of Paul the hairdresser whenever she was feeling down. These days, I use a layer-enhancing, texturizing paste/gel /gum made by L'Oreal, Tigi, Redken or one of a zillion other brands… but I don't use hairspray any more, because it always did give me spots!

Cathy says:
Love this… and yes, I remember the woeful lack of hair products back then! These days Jo is a fabulous author - find out more about her work at www.jofranklinauthor.co.uk . Would YOU have liked being a teenager in the 1980s? COMMENT BELOW to tell us why, or why not!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

THAT'S MY NAME… DON'T WEAR IT OUT!

Readers share the ups and downs of having a cool, unusual name…

Maia says:
My name comes from the Greek, 'Maya' which means love - or, if you believe the internet, it means 'great mother' also. I used to be known as Maia-Bee because there was an old TV programme about a bee called Maia… I have a cat called Bee, too! The downsides of my name is that it can easily be mistaken for Maya, Mya or Mia. I asked my mum why she chose this name, and here's what she said: 'I chose the name Maia because you are half Welsh, and the Welsh version of the name is Mair. You are also half Zanzibari, and the name there would be Maiya. One of my heroes is the great black woman writer Maya Angelou, too… all of those factors were a part of choosing that name!'

Keina says:
I do like having an unusual name - sometimes! I remember the first time I was given Christmas cards by my school friends, not one of the cards had my name spelt right… which made me sad, as if none of the cards were really for me! It takes a long time for someone to pronounce my name correctly, so I sometimes get confused when people are trying to call me. I'd love to have something personalised with my name, like a door sign or a book mark, but I've never found anything. My name is pronounced Ky-in-a, so my granny used to say to herself 'key-in-a-door' to make sure she got it right! I've been called Ciara, Cliona, Chloe and all kinds of other names; I am an altar server at mass and even after years of doing it the priests still get my name wrong! Keina is a Welsh name which means beautiful… the Irish version is Ciana. I've never met anyone else with the same name, so it is definitely unique!

Kiramae says:
Kiramae is an unusual name… the 'Kira' part was taken from a character in Star Trek and the 'Mae' was after my nan! It can get annoying at times, when people call me Kyra, or when my DT teacher calls me Cara Mae… but most of the time I love having a unique name. People don't often get me mixed up with anyone else, anyway! I also seem to get given really cool nicknames, like Kiwi, Skittles and Moo Moo, which is cool! I have met a couple of Kiras before, but my name is different and it's special because of what I was named after!

Omazie says:
Having a name like Omazie requires a lot of patience at times! I got into the habit of answering 'present' even before a teacher could read out my name at registration, so that he/she would not have to say it out loud. Sometimes it is embarrassing but also cool at the same time to know that you could search the whole world and not find a name like mine. The name Omazie comes from Nigeria and it is pronounced differently from the spelling which can be a problem! The name means 'precious'. Although I used to get laughed at because the name was so unusual, I guess it really IS precious, because nobody else has it!


Cathy says:
I LOVE these very cool names… I can't decide which one is my favourite! If you choose a new name for yourself, what would YOU choose? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

CHLOE: A SONG FOR COCO...

Reader Chloe continues our series with a perfect playlist for Coco… read on to see if you agree with her choices!

Chloe says:
My first song for Coco is I Know Places by Taylor Swift, from her album 1989. The lyrics I have chosen are: 'Something happens when everybody finds out, see the vulture circling hindsight… Because they got the cages, they got the boxes and guns, they are the hunters, we are the foxes, and we run…' This to me evokes the time when Coco and Lawrie rescued the ponies… they had no choice but to stand up against Seddon, yet knew they would be hunted down and caught.

The next song is the theme tune to a television programme - Take On The World from Disney Channel's Girl Meets World. The lyrics I have chosen are: 'Face to face with changes, what's it all about? Life is crazy but I know I can work it out… I feel all right, I'm gonna take on the world, light up the stars, I've got some pages to turn…' I specifically chose this song as it sums up Coco's attitude to life; she wants to light up the stars and so she will. She will face all kinds of crazy challenges to get there, but she'll succeed no matter what. I think this song is a huge confidence booster - listen to all the lyrics, even if you don't watch the show! The song is on several compilation albums and is by Sabrina Carpenter and Rowan Blanchard.

My final song is another one by Miss Swift… Mean. This reflects Coco's strong anti-bullying stance. If you've ever been bullied, please tell someone you trust - one soldier can't fight alone without an army, and nor can you. It's important, you know that. So, the lyrics I have chosen are: 'You with your words like laughs and your swords and weapons that you use against me, you picking on the weaker man.' This very much reminds me of when Coco intervened in what she thought was an incident of bullying. She may have got it wrong, but her bravery was clear! The song comes from the Speak Now album and it really connects with Coco in my mind!

Cathy says:
Another fab playlist from Chloe… do YOU agree with her choices? Would you add anything? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!

Monday, 9 March 2015

CUPCAKES FROM THE SONGBIRD CAFE...

My Irish author-pal Sarah Webb shares her recipe for these gorgeous cupcakes, inspired by her new book 'Mollie Cinnamon is Not a Cupcake'!

Sarah says:

Every cafe has to have its own special cupcake - here is a recipe for the trademark cupcakes from my new Songbird Cafe Girls series!

Makes 12 cupcakes…

You will need:
2 eggs
110g self-raising flour
110g butter
110g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder

For the icing:
220g icing sugar
110g butter
Blue food colouring

To make:
1. Ask a parent/ guardian to pre-heat oven to 180c.
2. Place 12 paper cupcake cases on a tray.
3. Mix sugar, flour and baking powder together. Add butter and eggs to mixture.
4. Stir ingredients together well until mixture is pale and fluffy.
5. Spoon mixture into paper cases.
6. Ask a parent/ guardian to put the tray of cases into the oven.
7. Bake for around 15 minutes or until golden brown. Ask parent/ guardian to help with this bit.
8. Once cooked, allow to cool while you make the icing.
9. Whisk butter and sugar together.
10. Add couple of drops of blue food colouring and mix.
11. Ask parent/ guardian to help you cut a circle from the top of each cake. Fill with icing.
12. Place cut out cake pieces on top of icing to look like wings!

Cathy says:
Oooh! Sounds like a perfect spring bake… I think I will be testing these out for Easter! Do YOU like baking? COMMENT BELOW to share your views and tell us if YOU would like to contribute a recipe to DREAMCATCHER!