Friday, 29 April 2016

SWEETREATS: CRANBERRY MUFFINS!

Reader and blogger Sweetreats is sharing this extra-gorgeous recipe for cranberry muffins with us today ... what are you waiting for?

Sweetreats says:

These cranberry muffins are perfect for a lazy weekend breakfast or a sunny spring picnic... or almost any other occasion you can think of,  for that matter! They taste great, but are deceptively simple to bake! Scrumptious!

You will need:

100g self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
55g caster sugar
100g dried cranberries
100ml natural yoghurt
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
icing sugar to dust

Method:
- Pre heat the oven to 190c/ gas mark 5.

- Line two 12 section mini muffin tins with 18 3cm mini muffin paper cases.

- Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Stir in caster sugar and cranberries.

- In a separate mixing bowl, beat together the yoghurt, egg and vegetable oil with a fork, until all is evenly combined.

- Tip the yoghurt mixture into the flour. Use a dessert spoon to gently fold ingredients together until only just mixed. Do not over-blend, or the muffins will not be as light.

- Spoon mixture into the paper cases... it should be roughly level with the top of the tin, rather than the top of the paper case.

- Bake in pre heated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until risen and firm to the touch.

- Leave muffins in tin for a couple of minutes, and then transfer them, still in their cases, onto a wire rack to cool down.

- Serve warm or cold, dusted lightly with icing sugar!

Sweetreats has a fabulous baking blog which you may like to check out or follow... take a look! Lots of inspiration there!

www.bakingboutiquebirds.blogspot.co.uk

Cathy says:
Wow... these look so good, and Sweetreats' step by step instructions mean that even a kitchen klutz like me should be able to make them! Are YOU a whizz in the kitchen? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more, or share your favourite treat recipes with me via the 'email Cathy' link on www.cathycassidy.com for possible inclusion on DREAMCATCHER!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

ALICIA: SATS TEST BLUES

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and Skye Tanberry has some hard-hitting advice for reader Alicia...

Alicia says:
We have SATs tests coming up and I am so, so stressed out. I am trying to study and understand what we are doing but I just get flustered and confused. I get so anxious with tests and I know I am going to let everyone down - my parents, my school and most of all myself. Help!

Skye says:
I am not a fan of SATs tests. I don't mind studying but I don't like jumping though hoops just for the sake of it and that's what SATs feel like. Not everybody likes tests and exams, and some of us get so wound up we cannot remember what we've been revising at all. At my old school, the teacher told us that although it's important to do our best in tests like this, they do not measure the important things about us... our creativity, our kindness, our individuality, enthusiasm, effort. It helped me to hear that and I did manage to get through the tests OK in the end. Remember that SATs are just something we have to go through. Stay calm and study as hard as you can, but keep in mind that whether you do brilliantly or whether you do less well than hoped, it doesn't make you a better/worse person. Do your best - that's all you can do. Be proud of yourself for all your unique qualities. So what if sitting tests isn't one of them?

Cathy says:
Wow... strong words from Skye! I agree... but do YOU have any tips for handling that SATs stress? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

CAMERA COOL!

I met reader Meabh at a recent signing in Dublin... and asked her to write about her very cool polaroid-type camera!

Meabh says:
I was given a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera as a Christmas present this year and I absolutely love it. It comes in a whole range of amazing colours... black, white, yellow, blue, pink, raspberry and grape. My camera is is a soft pink colour and I love it! The idea of the Instax camera is that it's like an old fashioned 'polaroid' type camera, which are very cool again now at a time when everyone has digital cameras or cameras on their phones. There's nothing old-fashioned about this though - it's very easy to use. You just turn it on, press the button and your photo pops out... a real photo, not just on-screen! There's a viewfinder you can look through to see what your picture is going to look like... this is very important, because once you press that button your photo will instantly print. There's no deleting like with digital!

The photos are printed as soon as you take them and take three to five minutes to develop fully. This is great - no more going to the print shop or making do with on-screen photos! At Christmas I was able to take photos of all my relatives, and when they were going home they could take the photos with them! They still have them, too! The photos have a cute little white border around them, very retro! There are lots of accessories you can get for this camera, such as a bag, stickers and special lenses that can make your photos different colours. You can hang the finished photos up on your wall with pretty ribbons and pegs, too!

Of course, it's not all perfect. If you are not happy with the way you look in a photo, there's no going back - it will be printed the moment you press  that button! As the film for the camera is quite expensive in some shops, you don't want to waste it! There's one other major  drawback, too... LOTS of people will be very jealous of your camera!

I am totally in love with my brilliant Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera - I absolutely love the fact that you can hold your memories in your hand just moments after they've happened!

Cathy says:
I think I fell in love with this camera too... how cool? Y'know me... it just has to be retro, right? Would YOU cope with a camera that isn't digital? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 25 April 2016

AMELIA: ILLNESS HAS MADE ME A BETTER PERSON

Reader Amelia writes about the challenge of living with a serious health condition…

Amelia says:
I have what is called an 'invisible illness' - it is Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a rare genetic disease. The type of EDS I have inherited is called Classical EDS and affects one in 20,000-50,000 people. The disease means I cannot do any kind of contact sports because my joints dislocate, my skin is really stretchy and takes twelve times longer to heal than the skin of most people, and I have to endure pretty much constant joint pain.  The upside of this is that I pretty much always have my head in a book!

I have routine physio and heart scans, and I have to take painkillers every day, but I don't really feel angry or resentful about the EDS. The worst time was when I couldn't sleep for several weeks because of it, but mostly I just accept that this is the way things are for me. I have taught myself to stand up to people who think I'm a freak, but most of my friends seem to take it in their stride. Sometimes, funny though it sounds, they totally forget! I have a friend with EDS, but he has not been out of hospital for a long time now.

The thing is, in some ways this illness has made me a better person. It has made me mentally stronger, because you have to be strong to cope. My advice to anyone out there who is going through health issues is to stay as positive as you can and keep going. It may seem hard right now, but there are always lots of things to look forward to.

Cathy says:
I am so amazed at Amelia's courage and positivity... what a girl! I first met her a few years ago at Hay Festival, and was delighted when she agreed to write about EDS for DREAMCATCHER. Have YOU ever had to cope with illness or disability? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

HANNAH: THE FAN FOLDER THAT GOT ME PUBLISHED!

Reader Hannah isn't just a CC fan, she's a super-creative and talented one... read about how her love of THE CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series got her into print in one of the books!

Hannah says:
I have been a Cathy Cassidy fan for as long as I can remember. I've been reading the books since I was six or seven and I am almost seventeen now. I can safely say I'm still hooked! When I got the opportunity to meet Cathy at a book signing at Waterstones in the Bluewater shopping centre, two years ago, I knew I had to do something special. My favourite books are THE CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series and I've always loved following the tales from Tanglewood. What makes them so great is that the characters are so easy to identify with - there's a little bit of each of them within all of us, whether it be Honey's stubbornness, Cherry's creativity, Summer's determination, Skye's eye for cool stuff or Coco's madness! I wanted to harness that and show Cathy how much her characters meant to me. So, I made a folder of letters from the Tanberry-Costello girls, including a few recipes of my own invention! And this is where my own story begins...

Cathy loved the folder, which I gave to her at the book signing at the Bluewater shopping centre, and she later contacted me to say she'd like to put it into her blog post on DREAMCATCHER. Of course I agreed immediately! But what happened over the months to come exceeded my expectations. Cathy messaged me again, this time to say she'd like to use a recipe in one of her new books. You can imagine how thrilled I was by this point - my favourite author wanted to publish my writing about her characters... in her own book? It was amazing! Time went by, and eventually the book was published. You can see my recipe for 'Skye's The Limit Cake' in Cathy's book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS.

Cathy was my initial inspiration to start writing books for teens and pre-teens, and I am working on a book at the moment. It's early days, but I am hopeful! Last June I was shortlisted for the Wicked Young Writers Awards, and to be in the top sixty out of 12,000 entries was a real honour. I've also recently started writing for an online magazine, a proper journalism job that earns money! It has been a whirlwind journey and a most exciting one. When I'm older, I hope to see books of my own on the shelves of bookstores, so having Cathy's support has inspired me and will go on inspiring me through all of my writing days...

Cathy says:
Hannah is without a doubt one of the most inspiring young people I've been lucky enough to meet... her amazing fan-folder was so detailed and carefully done, I just had to use one of the cool ideas! I'm certain Hannah will achieve some awesome things in her life. Are YOU a super-CC fan? Do YOU love to write? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!


Thursday, 21 April 2016

BROKEN HEART CLUB!!!

A new CC book is released into the wild... be warned: this one might just make you cry. (In a good way, of course!)

Cathy says:
Yesterday, my new book BROKEN HEART CLUB was released into the wild... and so far, readers are loving it! I'm currently on tour... on the weekdays I am visiting schools all around the UK and I will be signing books in Waterstones stores in BLUEWATER (Kent) and READING on Saturday 23rd April, and BIRMINGHAM on Sunday 24th. The following Saturday, April 30th, I have public events in SHREWSBURY and OSWESTRY (3pm at Booka Books). Check cathycassidy.com for details!

So... what is the new book about? Well, it's the story of five best friends, four girls and a boy, who have known each other since they were really small. When notice that the first letter of their names can be jumbled up to spell the word HEART, they label themselves the HEART CLUB... Hasmita, Eden, Andie, Ryan and Tasha. They're ultra-close and think things will stay that way forever, but in the summer holidays following Year Six their friendship group breaks away in a dramatic way. By the time Year Eight rolls around, the friends are in real trouble. Hasmita no longer speaks to her old friends, Eden has lost her spark and built a wall around herself so she cannot be hurt again, Andie has been right off the radar for the last two years, Ryan has turned into the school troublemaker and Tasha now lives overseas. Can they begin to pick up the pieces and put their friendship back together again?

BROKEN HEART CLUB is a very special book to me.... it was inspired by a group of readers met after a school event a few years ago, who also called themselves the HEART CLUB, though the characters and events in the story are purely fictional. Still, I love the fact that my awesome readers helped to sow the seeds of the story! BROKEN HEART CLUB is a powerful and emotional read - be warned, you may need tissues towards the end! This is the only book I've ever written where I made myself cry while writing! I think you'll love the book... and if you do get your hands on it, remember to send me your reviews through the 'email Cathy' link on the website!

Want to watch a trailer for the new book? You can... right here: BROKEN HEART CLUB TRAILER.

Have YOU read BROKEN HEART CLUB yet? Do you plan to? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

LIZZY: I CAN'T TELL ANYONE...

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Lizzy has a worry for SUMMER TANBERRY to unravel... will you agree with her advice?

Lizzy says:
I have a very serious problem. Over the Easter holidays my mum was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and started on medication and counselling. She hasn't been well since Christmas or maybe longer. She is still very low but I think she is getting a little bit better, I don't really know. The thing is, I feel like I can't tell anyone in case they judge my mum or feel sorry for me, and I can't ask friends over any more because Mum is acting very weird a lot of the time. My dad is in denial and my brother is away at uni so it feels like I am the only one who notices. I just don't want my friends to know, is that awful of me?

Summer says:
This is a very hard situation for you. If you feel like keeping your mum's illness quiet that's fine... depression can still be misunderstood. It's not a case of feeling sad for a few days, and then snapping out of it. In some ways it is similar to an eating disorder - people think you just have to eat more and everything will be fine, but it's not that simple. Counselling can really help, but a recovery takes time and patience. Why not take the pressure off and plan to see your friends away from the house for a while? If anyone questions why, just say that your parents are a bit stressed just now... your friends probably won't think twice about this. In time, you may decide to confide in a close friend, or let a couple of trusted mates come to the house, but equally you may choose not to. It's not awful to want to protect your mum, it's natural... and it's OK for you to have some support, too. Why not talk to a guidance teacher or school counsellor in confidence and get some back up while things are difficult at home? Good luck!

Cathy says:
I agree with Summer - Lizzy should trust her instincts on this and do what feels right to her. Do YOU agree with Summer's advice? Would you add anything more? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

SLANEY: MUSIC IS MY LIFE!

Reader Slaney describes what it's like to be crazy about music... and how much hard work it takes to follow the dream!

Slaney says:
I am fourteen and I have been interested in singing since I was tiny - my mum says I was singing even before I could talk! I don't play any musical instruments currently, though I can play the odd tune on piano... I am thinking of taking up guitar though. I wouldn't do guitar lessons, as I already have a busy week with various commitments...  I'd just see where I can go with books and online tutorials and the help of friends. Currently, I have four music lessons each fortnight... one for practicing a piece, two for composing and one for listening/theory. There are singing lessons on top of that and I am part of two choirs, one in school and one outside. I have made so many friends through choir and absolutely love it... our teachers have so many ways to make it fun! We do concerts sometimes too, and I had a solo song in the ones we did at Christmas.

In the summer, we made a CD, which involved spending a weekend in the studios, recording all the songs we needed. It was great and brought us all so much closer together as friends. It was also hugely rewarding when we finally got to hear the result! I have recently found out that I am going to be able to record a mini solo album, which is SO exciting! I am happy to do all the extra work with my out of school choir, but keeping up with my school choir is hard work sometimes as we have two rehearsals a week on top of my other practices. It also means that my voice is often tired from doing so much singing!

I have a few role models... Julie Andrews from the film The Sound of Music is one. She is an incredible actress with a wonderful voice. It's such a shame she cannot sing anymore. I also love Bars and Melody (Charlie and Leo) because their music is great and I love how they've become so famous so young! They are only fifteen and seventeen and have literally done what I would love to do in life. They're also just great people. and do so much to keep their fans happy. I have seen them in concert and met them too, and they followed me in Instagram and replied to me once of Facebook! I know it sounds cheesy, but my dream is probably to become a famous pop singer. This has been my ambition since I was tiny, and let me tell you, it hasn't changed!

Cathy says:
I love Slaney's dedication and determination... she is putting in so much hard work that she definitely deserves to succeed! Do YOU love singing? Do YOU dream of a career in music? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 18 April 2016

AMBER: GLASSES TO CONTACTS!

Reader Amber describes what it's like to grow up with glasses... and how she made the transition to contacts!

Amber says:
I started wearing glasses when I was four years old. The pre-school eye test was when I was first told I was long-sighted and had astigmatisms in each eye (basically, my eyes are shaped like rugby balls rather than footballs!). I went to a very small primary school of only 28 students, so everyone was very understanding and this made me feel more confident about my glasses. To begin with I did not understand the issues with my eyes, but now I could explain it to anyone! I have been through several tests to try to improve my eyesight. I started out with an eye patch which slipped over the glasses on my right eye - the idea was to make my left eye work harder and become stronger. This is help, but it didn't make me look like a pirate at all - the patch was pink with a 3-D purple dog on it! Next came the eye drops, which I HATED. Every day I was pinned to the couch by my mum to get them in my eye. Nightmare! All of this did eventually make my eyes much better.

When I got to the age of wanting to wear make up, my glasses became a bit annoying. When I wore mascara my lashes would push against the lenses and if I wanted to wear eyeliner I had to take off my glasses to apply it - and then I couldn't see where to put it on! I suppose these small things were irritating, but I can honestly say that wearing glasses has never stopped me from doing anything. I've been doing gymnastics since I was young and haven't taken my glasses off once in class... if I did, I'd miss the vault! I did boxing for a year or so, too. You can even get prescription goggles for swimming if you want!

Although I like glasses, I have always wanted to try contacts. I found a great optician in the end, who spent several hours talking about them and taking the contacts in and out to make sure I could do them well and to make sure I felt confident with it all. I had almost forgotten the feeling of not wearing glasses, after ten years of having them! If you decide you want contacts, I can tell you they are definitely not as scary as they sound. You have to take your time with them and make sure you keep them clean - the optician will give you a special solution for doing this, and it's important as the last thing you want is an eye infection. Contact lenses do take a little time to get used to, but overall they are definitely worth it. I love them!

Cathy says:
Amber looks brilliant both with and without glasses... but her honest account of wearing glasses and making the change to contacts is brilliant. Do YOU wear glasses? Or contacts? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

IOANA: I LIVE IN ROMANIA!

Another in our occasional series of readers all around the world... we talk to Ioana, who lives in Romania!

Ioana says:
I am thirteen and I live in the small town of Onesti in Romania. I live in a flat - an apartment - with my family, my mom, my dad, and my little sister. We have a pet hamster, too. My school is mixed, girls and boys, and quite big. We have a uniform, including a red waistcoat. I like Maths, Geography and Biology and hate French because I already know a foreign language (English) and don't want to have to learn a new one! I like to study, but school is hard. We have been told that we learn in grades 5-8 what American children learn in high school. After school I draw and write small stories, and at the weekends I meet my friends. I don't have a boyfriend yet because I'm only thirteen. I like to read and watch movies, but I don't play sport. I used to do tennis and volleyball, but have no time for them now. My teachers are great. Some are quite old, but they always smile and encourage us to be good people!

Our national dress is white with red and black... it is simple but special. and we wear it on the 1st December, which is Romania National Day. Our country's main religion is Romanian Orthodox, which is a little like the catholic religion. We have a national celebration on March 1st called 'Marticor' where we share small, red and white things to bring good luck. We also celebrate Valentine's Day, but call it 'Dragobete'.

Food in Romania is good. We eat lots of vegetables and fruits but 'Sarmale' is our speciality dish, made of minced meat wrapped in cabbage leaves or vine leaves. These are really delicious! We love sweets too and have a kind of muffin, lots of chocolate and cakes with lemon juice, and a very tasty bread-like cake called 'cozonaci'.

Romania is a wonderful country. We are not rich, but we are happy, and I think that's what counts! Our summers are hot, our autumns are rainy and in winter it snows and is very cold. We have a lot of parks and rivers, and visitors should be sure to see the fort, 'Sighisoara' and the monastery, 'Voronet.' The thing I like best about my country is that the people here are honest and cheerful and always happy. For myself, in the future I wish to be an architect and to live in a little house with sunshine and flowers and two children running in the garden. I wish to be happy - this is what matters most to me.

Cathy says:
Wow... I love this post so much! Ioana has made Romania come alive for me, and her love of her home country is contagious! Do YOU live outside the UK? Would you like to write about YOUR country for DREAMCATCHER? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Friday, 15 April 2016

BETH'S BOOKS: UNDER-HYPED AND OVER-AWESOME!

Guest blogger Beth is back with some more top tips for YA lovers... and trust me, she has excellent taste!

Beth says:
Hi everyone! Welcome to my second guest post for DREAMCATCHER - thanks again to Cathy for having me! Today I'm going to be talking about six YA books that I believe deserve more attention than they get - in other words, under-hyped. All of the books are linked to my review (in some places), Goodreads and Amazon.
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I wouldn't say that PAPER TOWNS is underrated as such...but compared to it's more popular cousin, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS it most definitely is. I am probably one the few people that found this book hilarious, moving and a lot more original than TFIOS, and I couldn't recommend it enough!

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I never see enough of this book, along with SECOND CHANCE SUMMER, another great book by Matson. However, I absolutely adore both novels!

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I was lucky enough to read this through NetGalley, and now I want to own it because I loved it so much! Lindstrom has amazing skill, and I admire him so much.

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I would go as far to say this is the best series I've ever read, and if you're into alternative/dystopian, I would recommend it in a heartbeat!


Want to see more posts like these? Click here to view my blog!
-Beth
May your shelves forever overflow with books!

Cathy says:
Ooh, some fab suggestions here... and I agree re: PAPER TOWNS, it's my fave John Green book too! Do YOU have a tip for an under-rated YA/teen book? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 14 April 2016

CIARA: RED VELVET CUPCAKES!

Reader Ciara shares her recipe for yummy red velvet cupcakes... they look amazing!!! Heading for the kitchen right now...

Ciara says:

You will need:

1/2 cup of butter
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
2 free range eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 1/2 oz red food colouring
1 teaspoonful salt
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoonful vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoonful baking soda mixed with 1 tablespoon white vinegar (use a large bowl and be careful as the mixture will foam!)

Method:

- Heat oven to 180c (350f) or gas mark 4.
- Line muffin tins with paper or silicon cupcake cases.
- Cream butter and add sugar gradually, beating in.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.
- Make a paste of cocoa and food colouring; add to creamed mixture.
- Add salt, flour and vanilla alternately with buttermilk, beating well.
- Pour baking soda/ vinegar mixture over batter and stir thoroughly to mix.
- Divide batter amongst paper cases in muffin tin, filling each one 2/3 full.
- Bake 22-25 mins or until a skewer inserted into cakes comes out clean.
- Cool on wire cooling rack for ten minutes.
- When absolutely cool, frost with your favourite white frosting - vanilla icing or cream cheese frosting both work well!

Cathy says:
One of these would be just perfect with my afternoon coffee... sigh! Do YOU have a fave recipe for a tasty sweet treat? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more of email me through the 'email Cathy' link over on www.cathycassidy.com if you'd like to share your recipe and pics on DREAMCATCHER!



Wednesday, 13 April 2016

MIKI: MY FRIENDS ARE ALWAYS FIGHTING...

Another in our regular problem page column... reader Miki has a problem for Honey Tanberry to solve...

Miki says:
My best friends are constantly fighting and I am stuck in the middle. Whenever they make up again, one says something that the other one thinks is rude or mean and they fight again. I am trying to help them solve their issues, but they won't listen to me and the situation is really starting to get to me...

Honey says:
Talk honestly to both friends - but separately. Be clear that you are worn out with their bickering and need to know if the rift in their friendship can ever genuinely be healed... you need to know how they feel about each other and then make a decision about whether it is worth your efforts to help them stay close. At the moment, it sounds as though they are enjoying the drama and attention - they have you running round trying to bring them together, sure, but nothing stays calm for long. They may be addicted to the fall-outs and the fighting. Let them know that you're going to step back and let them sort out their own troubles from now on - it sounds harsh, but as you've admitted this is not an easy situation for you and there's really no need for you to be put in the middle of their rows. If you take a back seat, they will have to find a way to patch things up or even break apart... and that's their decision. If they do split, you will have to find a way to see each of them separately - but the constant fighting will be over. For now, find some more chilled friends to hang out with and keep your fingers crossed that the fighting will burn itself out soon. Good luck!

Cathy says:
Honey has a point... being in the middle of someone else's argument is no fun at all. Do YOU agree with Honey's advice? What would you add? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

YOUR HOROSCOPE FOR APRIL!

Skye Tanberry has been consulting the stars again... will her horoscope predictions for April ring true for YOU? Read on and see!

ARIES (March 21- April 19):
Lately, it feels like the same old issues are coming back to haunt you. Don't panic - you're not going backwards, you just have more to learn from all this. Be patient... you will find a way through.

TAURUS (April 20- May 20) :
April is a month of fresh starts and new opportunities for you... make the most of this time! You have a tendency to be scatty just now... rein this in and be as organised as you can for a truly spectacular spring!

GEMINI (May 21 - June 20):
Time to stop dithering and act - your ideas are good, and this is a great time to try them out. Just don't lose interest in the project halfway through! If guilt is eating away at you, say sorry for any mistakes and let go of any bad feelings about things beyond your control.

CANCER ( June 21 - July 22):
A crush that has been taking up all your time and attention for the last few months is about to cool off... that's OK, it just means you're being more rational again now that the rose-tinted glasses have gone.

LEO (July 23 - Aug 22):
This month, some of your strongest beliefs may be challenged. Stay strong and speak up for what you know is right... your instincts know what is best for you, so refuse to let others throw you off track.

VIRGO Aug 23 - Sept 22):
The conflicts and mood swings of the last month are coming to an end and your usual gentle and sensitive nature is back to stay. Relax and let the stresses wash away, but take care with your exercise routine so you stay bright and healthy!

LIBRA Sept 23- Oct 22):
This is a month of change, and that's not always welcome for a Libra, who likes to keep things in balance! Part of this means letting go of past hurts and grudges, which are holding you back. Take a deep breath, forgive, forget... and move on.

SCORPIO (Oct 23 - Nov 21):
You're ready for new experiences and dream of falling in love, exploring your skills and talents and making the life you long for... but hold on a little bit longer. Tread carefully. Change is coming, and it will transform you, but you need to stay patient for a little while yet.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov 22 - Dec 21):
Things are going round in circles, and that loss of control is something that drives you to distraction. Have faith... the energy and focus you need are coming your way soon, paving the way for an amazing summer!

CAPRICORN (Dec 22 - Jan 19):
You've had some friendship ups and downs to handle, but this awkwardness is fading now. Be careful... one so-called friend still has jealous feelings, but try not to get drawn in and you will keep the loyalty of those close to you.

AQUARIUS: (Jan 20-Feb 18):
Growing up can be tough... it means letting go of beliefs, pastimes and interests that you have outgrown. Sometimes, old friends can hold you back too, but while stepping back can be a kind of freedom, take care to keep the lines of communication open. Hurting people is never good news.

PISCES (Feb 19 - March 20):
You have strong views and beliefs, but shouting about them isn't always the way forward... sometimes actions hold more power! Act quietly and with kindness and you may change the views of those around you without having to argue them into submission!

Cathy says:
Ooh... some very interesting stuff! Does YOUR horoscope sound accurate? Or are YOU a stars-sceptic? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 11 April 2016

MY DILEMMA: SCHOOL OR SIXTH FORM COLLEGE?

Reader Vicky has a decision to make... so she asked if other CC readers could chip in with their advice and experiences! Here's what you said...

Vicky says:
I'm currently trying to decide whether I should go to college or to the sixth form at my school. Could anyone who has been through this dilemma tell me some of the pros and cons of each option? Thank you!

Jo says:
I chose sixth form college and it was a wonderful experience... opened my eyes to new people and ways of life, and meant I was prepared for uni far more than if I'd stayed at my small town sixth form.

Stephanie says:
I went to a vocational college to do AS levels, but I dropped out to become an apprentice! I made amazing friends and learned a lot, but A levels weren't my scene. College gave me a taste of the adult world which has definitely helped in my apprenticeship!

Lorna says:
My sixth form college is attached to a different school to the one I studied at earlier on. I felt it offered more control and focus and I wanted to get away from the people I knew. I made a new start and met lots of different people.

Holly says:
Life at a sixth form college is great. You're treated with so much more respect than at school... you're older and there are no younger students around. The subject choices are extensive and tailored towards A level students rather than all of the age groups, and as a result the tutors are so much more relaxed too!

Jess says:
I was at a girls school up until Year eleven and had some brilliant friends there, but I wanted to do a Creative Writing A level and that meant going to the boys school just down the road... both sixth forms are mixed! It was a big change for me, having being with just girls for the last five years, but I followed my heart and it has helped me in so many ways and made me a more confident person.

Laura says:
I had the chance to try both options and found the college took a very different approach. College was more relaxed without younger students around and gave you more responsibility and freedom, but I found I preferred the structure of sixth form and worked well with a more teacher-led approach to learning... the support has been great, too.

Emily says:
I went to sixth form in my own school and loved it! It was a new experience, we had our own space and got to know the teachers much better. We were still in a familiar environment too, which made me feel much more comfortable.

Melissa says:
Like Laura, I too did both and I preferred college... our sixth form struggled to bridge the gap between GCSE and A level, and many students ended up transferring over to college. That was the case for me, not saying it's always that way!

Liz says:
Sixth form college was two of the best years of my life! Everyone was so mature compared to school. and the student-staff relationship was much more relaxed. We called teachers by their first names! I did lots of extra curricular stuff and went on a trip to France that really shaped my life as it made me want to study French (which I am doing now!) and I wrote a novel set in France!

Sian says:
I go to a school sixth form and thoroughly enjoy it - you feel independent but still have a support network. It has so far been the best year of my life!

Khiana says:
I'm an AS student in a sixth form college. It's brilliant - you can't tell the difference between the people in your year and the year above, and everyone is way friendlier than you expect. My advice would be to poke your nose into loads of different clubs and mix with as many new people as possible. Don't forget to smile... it goes a long way when making first impressions!

Emily C says:
I'm a BTec student at sixth form college and I love it so much more than school. I have lots of freedom and am learning to rely on myself, I have a varied timetable, wear my own clothes, call teachers by their first names and have a much more relaxed relationship with those around me. Some of my friends have said they prefer the structure of a school sixth form, but this suits my personality. It's a personal choice, so check out the options... and good luck!

Cathy says:
I went the school sixth form route, but then again, there wasn't a choice for me back then! Great advice for Vicky... do YOU have a view? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 9 April 2016

PRERANA: I LIVE IN NEPAL!

Reader Prerana tells us what it is like to live in the Himalayan country of Nepal!
Prerana says:
I am fifteen years old and I live in Nepal. I live in a small house with my parents and my brother, in Kathmandu, the capital city. I study at a girls-only higher secondary school nearby. We have a school uniform... a light blue shirt, a dark blue skirt and dark blue socks. A white shirt with white skirt and socks is also allowed! I go to school from 7.45am until 4pm, which is quite a long time. The teachers are very friendly and rarely strict - I love my school! Computer science is my favourite subject.

The climate of Nepal is very changeable! We are a tropical country but we can have summer, winter, spring and rainy season all one by one. The rainy season starts in March and goes on until July - in theory! In fact, it comes randomly and can be very unpredictable. Uncertain weather is a part of life in Nepal, or maybe it's global warming! Sometimes it rains in the rainy season, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it gets really, really hot, and in the cold season there is snowfall in the mountainous regions. A while ago we had a massive earthquake here. It was really horrible, 7.6 on the Richter scale. It did not affect me personally but the earthquake did great damage in Nepal and many people lost their lives and their homes.

We have a few national dishes which are regularly eaten in Nepal. Most of the people in the hilly regions eat a dish called Dheedo, which is made from corn flour. Sisnu Ko Saag is popular also, a leafy green vegetable that grows wild. It is also known as 'nettle greens' and is related to the nettle plant. Gundruk, another popular dish, is made from fermented leafy greens and is served as a side dish. Momo is a very popular meal also, and is a type of steamed or fried bun or dumpling with a flavoured filling of meat, cheese or vegetables.

There are many religions in Nepal, with Hinduism and Buddhism being the most widespread. There are many festivals celebrated, according to the specific religion - Dashain is a fifteen day festival which is celebrated by all Nepali people of whatever religion; soon after comes another big celebration, Tihar. The many festivals make us come together and unite as a people, and also of course, forget our anxieties and feel loved and blessed as we celebrate.

Clothes in Nepal are a mixture of traditional and modern. Most Nepali styles of dress are worn according to the religion of the wearer...  the saari, the dhoti, the haaku pataasi... they are cultural forms of clothing. Most people only wear their cultural dress for special occasions such as festivals, however. In casual everyday life, jeans, t-shirts and western styles are often worn.

There are so many interesting things to do in Nepal... so much culture, so many festivals and places of natural beauty. Pokhara is a place that cannot be missed... you can see the famous Devil's Waterfall there and also some interesting caves. A place called Lumbini is important as it is the birth place of the Lord Buddha, and if you travel to Swayambhu you can see the tallest statue of the Lord Buddha in Asia. There are many other famous temples such as Janaki Mandir and Pashupatinah. Nepal has some amazing natural scenery, such as the Annapurna mountains and the Himalayas, home to the highest mountain in the world, Mt Everest.

I love Nepal because it is my birth country and also because it is full of amusement, beauty and interest. In the future, my dream is to help to develop my country and contribute all I can for the welfare of its people.

Cathy says:
I am lucky enough to have been to Nepal, many years ago. It was one of the most stunningly beautiful places I have ever been to, and the people were so gentle and lovely I have never forgotten the time we spent there. Would YOU like to travel overseas? Would you visit Nepal? Or are YOU a reader from outside the UK would would like to write for DREAMCATCHER about your country? Email me though the link on my website, www.cathycassidy.com or COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 8 April 2016

SOPHIA BENNETT: LOVE SONG

My fab writer pal Sophia Bennett tells us how she wrote her latest novel, LOVE SONG...

Sophia says:
In 2014 I began to wonder how much longer One Direction would be able to keep up with their seemingly endless world tours. I loved seeing their interviews, and how cute they were together, but thought it must be exhausting to be always on the road, away from their families, constantly being scrutinised. And yet, they got to see some amazing places too and have experiences together they would never forget.

And so I found myself dreaming about a band, and a girl, and wondering what it would be like to be with them. One Direction quickly morphed into The Point, a rock band with four hot boys based on all sorts of musicians I've known and loved over the years. The girl became Nina, a seventeen-year-old, cynical arts student like me, who knows she doesn't stand a chance with a rock star and wouldn't want one anyway. They just break your heart and ruin your life. Everybody knows that.

The first half of LOVE SONG follows Nina as she trails round with The point on tour, working as an assistant for the evil, diva fiancée of the band's lead singer, Jamie Maldon. She sees the incredible luxury they live in, the true passion of their loyal fans, and also witnesses the secret stresses behind the scenes. In the second half of the story, everything is different. Suddenly, the band are cut off from their world and their fan base, to make the new album they desperately need to produce, But they can't make music together any more. Too much has happened and their friendships have been stretched to breaking point and beyond. It will take a sensible girl 'who doesn't fancy any of them' to help put them back together. But is Nina really as safe from them all as she thinks she is? And what will happen when Nina discovers within herself the same love of music that brought them all together in the first place?

LOVE SONG was by far the hardest book to create of the seven I've written so far - and it's the one I am proudest of. It's a book about love, and music, and travelling the world... and being seventeen. I wish I could be a girl like Nina for a day, despite all the heartbreak she suffers. Perhaps we all secretly do...

You can find out more and order a copy of LOVE SONG here:
http://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/book/12492/Love-Song-by-Sophia-Bennett.html

Cathy says:
This book has just reached the top of my to-read list... I cannot wait to jump into the story! What's the best book YOU have read recently? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

EBONY: GET YOUR SKATES ON!

Reader Ebony tells all about the awesome hobby of roller skating... could it be right for you too?

Ebony says:
I learned how to roller skate when I was small, but only got into it seriously about four years ago. My dad took me along to the rink because I was always complaining that I was bored on Saturdays and needed something to do!

At my local roller rink they do games and disco skating. At first I was intimidated because the older ones - and even people my own age - seemed to be able to skate so well! The people there had been skating for a long time and had lots of experience. I fell over a few times to begin with, but you have to get back up and try again - if you don't, your confidence will go and you won't succeed.

That is still my motto now, as I am in the process of learning to do tricks like axel jumps and mape jumps, and I fall over all the time. I suppose you get shocked the first time you fall, and you think, 'No, this is dangerous, I'm not doing this again!' But if you can get over that first reaction and make yourself carry on, it's just so much fun and practice is definitely the way to learn, of course.

I practice in the week, in the evenings after school - in the summer especially, and the odd winter evening as well. I also do speed skating up and down the pavement and try to improve my times and get faster. I also practice axels, spins, jumps and just general skating up and down! At the weekend, I just dance/ skate to my favourite songs at the roller disco. Going with my friends is my favourite thing to do. You can go around with them and chat, but sometimes they get a bit surprised when they see what you can do! I am trying to find an artistic skating club in my area - no luck so far, but I will keep on looking!

The main thing you need is a good pair of skates, although arm pads and knee pads may be useful for a beginner! A good pair of skates would cost around £60 - it may sound a lot, but they will last for a very long time! Once in a while you may need to change the stoppers as they get worn out, and you can get new wheels too! My advice for beginners would be to give roller skating a go... but don't go too full-on! You think, 'Oh yeah, I can do this,' and you get all cocky and then you fall over and your confidence is knocked. I like the speed and the tricks of skating - and it is so much fun to do jumps! Learning is hard - but if you want to get good at something, it's the only way!

Cathy says:
I love the sound of this - I quite liked roller skating when I was a teen. I was especially good at the falling over bit! Would YOU ever give roller skating a go? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

CHLOE: I LOVE THE WATER BUT I CAN'T SWIM!

Reader Chloe has a problem for Coco Tanberry to solve - can Coco help Chloe find her confidence?

Chloe says:
I like the water, but I can't swim... when I was younger I used to get eczema whenever I went in the pool, so swimming lessons were out. These days I don't seem to react to the water, and it's not that I'm scared of the pool either - I'm not. Last week I was at a pool party with friends and I'm not sure how it happened, but I went under and swallowed a lot of water and had to be rescued. My parents got a scare - so did I - and we all agree I need to learn to swim. My problem is that I will be mortified to join a class of little kids, as I really will need to start at the beginning. I'd be so embarrassed, I just don't think I could do it! Help!

Coco says:
Hmmm... if you are going to go to pool parties or have fun in the water, you need to be able to swim, end of story. If that means joining a class of younger beginners, then do it - after all, next time you get into trouble in the water, there may not be someone handy to save you. This matters! Ask your parents to investigate local swimming classes. As well as children's classes, many pools run classes for older beginners. If you join one of these, you may find yourself with adults of all ages, but at least you won't be worrying about being the oldest! Another option is to book some one-to-one lessons with an instructor, or get a parent to teach you. Whichever option you take, please do get this sorted... swimming is great exercise and loads of fun. It's something everyone should be able to do! Good luck... and enjoy!

Cathy says:
I used to be very scared of the water when I was younger, but swimming is probably my favourite exercise now. I'm definitely with Coco... I think Chloe needs to get brave and do this! Do YOU agree with Coco's advice? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 4 April 2016

FAMOUS NAMES!

Was your name inspired by a famous person or fictional character? Readers share the origins of their names and tell us what else they have in common with their namesakes...

Leela says:
My parents didn't name me for the first week or so after I was born. I was originally going to be called Elouise, but Mum and Dad decided at the last minute that it just didn't suit me, and in the end they named me Leela. They found out about the name Leela from the TV show Futurama, where one of the main characters is called Taranga Leela (you can see her picture at the foot of the page!). The funny thing is, Taranga Leela has purple hair and one eye, and I have blonde hair and believe it or not, I have two eyes! But while we look extremely different, we have quite a few things in common... we are both great leaders! I am definitely better at art than she is, but then again she's a lot braver than I am!

Esme says:
I was named after Esmerelda from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Disney movie... and the movie was based on a classic story. She's famous, right? I like my name - I don't know any other Esmes! People sometimes say it wrong, like 'Ez-me', and that used to annoy me a little bit, but these days I honestly don't care! My brother calls me 'Esmerell' and I think that's really nice! People often ask me when we meet if my full name is Esmerelda. I really wish it was, because it sounds really cool, but no, it isn't. Esme is 74th on the list of popular 100 girl's names... I looked it up! My middle name was inspired by someone famous too... it's Alexandria, after a Russian princess.
Keira says: 
Although I wasn't named after Keira Knightly she is probably the most famous person to share my name. When I was younger, I used to sometimes wish I was named after her. I tried to be like her - I wanted to have her confidence and talent to find out the truth. Only when I realised that you can't be someone else - that you have to be true to yourself - did I realise I didn't need to try to be something I wasn't. I was already like Keira - but I could never see my own inner confidence until I needed to! I am loads more confident now - I suppose you can see that from the funny picture! My middle name is Mary, and that comes from St Mary's, the hospital where my parents did their IVF treatment. They had struggled to have me, and St Mary's helped them - once they knew the treatment had worked, they wanted to include the name Mary in my name as a way of saying thank you!

Cathy says:
Wow, fascinating! I think being named after a cartoon character with only one eye is pretty fab... here's a pic of Taranga Leela so you can see what Leela was talking about! Three very cool names and three very cool girls, all in all! Were YOU named after someone famous? COMMENT BELOW and have your say, or email me via the link on www.cathycassidy.com to tell me more!