Monday, 31 October 2016

TRICK OR TREAT!

Did you dress up for Halloween? Readers share their most memorable Halloween costumes!


Violet says:
My best costume was in the days before constant selfies... 2010, I think. I dressed as Ophelia from the Shakespeare play Hamlet, post-madness. I wore a black dress and a white shirt splattered with blood... it was meant to be the shirt Polonius was wearing when he got stabbed. I messed my hair up and put on white lipstick (OK, foundation...) and black eyeliner with smudges of purple eyeliner to complete the look. I wore it to a party and then again the next night, trick or treating... most people assumed I was a zombie schoolgirl, but one old couple were pleased that I enjoyed Shakespeare and we discussed our favourite plays. They gave me chocolate, too! I haven't dressed up for Halloween in ages, but I did see a mask in Tesco I couldn't resist. I don't know what it is - some sort of angry panda? I'd be angry, too, if I had buttons for eyes. I'll wear it with a t-shirt with a glow-in-the-dark ribcage made up of little spiders I also found in Tesco, and that'll be my costume to answer the door if we get trick or treaters!

Melanie says:
My best costume was a Christmas tree costume my mum made... there are no surviving photos!

Katie says:
Last year I dressed as Cruella De Ville with an old drama costume for when trick or treaters turned up at my house. Back when I was about eight, I went trick or treating in America with friends... I had a full Hannah Montana costume! Not sure what I'm doing this year yet, but i am determined to make it the best EVER!

Trish says:
I dressed as Night and Day once... Mum sewed my best dress and my nightie together, half and half, and I wore one shoe and one slipper. My hair was half styled and half in curlers and I wore half make up and half night cream. Genius!

Kym says:
Last year I went as an adult Wednesday Addams because I completely dig all that creepy stuff anyway. I'm not dressing up this year as I'm not feeling it, but I will still decorate the house and we'll stay in eating sweets and watching movies!

Joanne says:
I went as a Day of the Dead skeleton (dia de los meuertos) last year. I wore face paint with flowers around my eyes and a dress with flower patterned ribs and bones. It was surprisingly beautiful! The year before that I was a gothic Red Riding Hood!

Laurel says:
My family and I dressed up as characters from Scooby Doo, which was brilliant - I was Velma!

Caoimhe says:
This year I dressed up as a dead bride for drama class and loved the costume! I wore a long veil with black and silver roses on it and a grey dress with cobwebs and flowers. There was a hologram of a rose and a dead bride on it which was really cool. I put on grey make up but when I turned the light on it looked blue... really spooky!

Cathy says:
A quiet Halloween for me, as I'm a bit too sad still to be celebrating anything, but I have loved hearing about these ideas... some great and inspiring costumes! What was YOUR best dress up idea for Halloween? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

JADE: MY PERFECT SISTER...

Reader Jade loves her sister... but secretly longs for a time when she can break away from her shadow...

Jade says:
My sister Lucie is just fifteen months older than me, and at times we have been mistaken for twins. Ever since I can remember, I have hero-worshipped Lucie - she has always seemed perfect to me. I modelled myself on her, copied her style, her dress sense, even her hobbies and interests. I always wanted her approval and praise more than anyone else's, wanted to be as good as she was. It took me until I was twelve or thirteen to realise that was never going to happen.

Lucie was - and is - my best friend as well as my sister, so it felt incredibly disloyal to admit to myself that I was jealous of her. I was, though. No matter how hard I tried, I could never match her, never be quite as good or as perfect. My marks at school were never as good, and although we both did tap and modern dancing, piano lessons and drama, Lucie was better at all of them. I started to feel like a poor copy of her, and that hurt. I decided to try a different hobby and signed up for gymnastics, but I wasn't great at that either... and the lessons fizzled out because I couldn't bear to fail at yet another thing. At that point, my parents began to worry about me because they thought I'd changed, stopped trying. I realised they saw me as a problem teen, and that was the last straw.

The one good thing I had in my life was Matt, my boyfriend... and then I lost him too. He finished with me at Easter, and by the summer holidays he was going out with Lucie. My world crumbled. Of course, I'd told Lucie I didn't care about Matt, that it had never been serious, because I didn't want her pity. So now I can't even let her see how hurt I am. I feel like my life is a lie, and although Lucie thinks we are as close as ever, I hate being in her shadow. I don't hate Lucie herself - she genuinely is a lovely person, much better than I am. I could never hate her, but I long for a time when I am no longer in her shadow. Lucie passed ten GCSEs in the summer and is already looking forward to uni. Sometimes she talks about how cool it would be if we went to the same uni and how we could share a flat, but that will never happen. If I am going to have a chance of a happy life, I need to be a long way away from Lucie. I can never tell her this, never tell my parents or friends. They would think I was the worst person in the world. Sometimes I think I am. I just want a chance to be myself... to have the space to find out what that is, to live my life without comparisons. And maybe when I am out of Lucie's shadow, I won't feel like such a bad sister anymore. Perhaps we'll find a way to stay close. I hope so.

All names have been changed to protect privacy.

Fab photographs by reader Hollie: with thanks to fab models Jess and Emily!

Cathy says:
Jade has been painfully honest, and I think she does need some space to be herself. I hope she manages to spread her wings and find her place in the world, as well as holding on to that close bond with her sister. Have YOU ever felt overshadowed by a sister or a friend? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 28 October 2016

SOPHIE: I'M NOT STRAIGHT... AND NOT GAY EITHER...

Reader Sophie writes about what it feels like to be neither straight nor gay in a world which doesn't understand... a powerful post for Asexual Awareness Week.

Sophie says:
Asexuality is where you don't like anyone in a sexual way. It isn't a choice, like celibacy, but a part of who you are. Asexuality is not a black or white thing but more of a scale, sometimes called the grey scale. On this scale is the category of demisexual, where you either rarely like someone or else only feel sexual attraction if you have a strong emotional bond with them. Some people may only feel attraction when they know someone very well, others will rarely have this kind of attraction. Asexual people are still capable of love, and some have relationships and do things like hold hands or kiss. Some prefer to be by themselves while others surround themselves with close friends. Most will also have a romantic orientation, such as hetro- romantic, homo-romantic, bi-romantic, pan-romantic, a-romantic and more.

I am asexual a-romantic, which means I don't like anyone in a romantic way. I knew I wasn't straight even before I knew I was asexual. People would say, 'Oh, isn't this guy fit,' and I couldn't see what they were talking about. This was quite a difficult time, because I felt there was something wrong with me. I had a girly chat with a couple of friends and when I admitted I had never had a crush on anyone, they suggested I may be asexual. I looked into it, and at once it clicked - it was like a huge weight lifting from my shoulders. People don't always get it and say things like 'You just haven't met the right person yet.' However, it is a part of who I am, and I wouldn't change it for the world.

One of the reasons I am so keen to spread the word about asexuality is because I don't want others to worry the way I did. I try my best to raise awareness - I spoke about the subject in my speech as Head Girl and later in an assembly with my school's LGBT alliance. However, it is still widely unknown - it's thought that perhaps one in every hundred is asexual. This week is Asexual Awareness Week so it seems a perfect chance to talk about it here.

If you are worried about your sexuality, speak to someone you trust. They might help you to understand how you are feeling, and also, sometimes it just helps to talk. Remember above all that YOU are amazing - just the way you are.

Awesome digital image by the very talented Millie A; you can follow her art page on FB HERE.

Cathy says:
A huge thank you to Sophie for helping raise awareness of asexuality. Have YOU ever felt you didn't quite fit into the regular mould when it comes to attraction? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

DENISE: EVERYTHING IS GETTING TO ME

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Denise is struggling - can Coco Tanberry offer some words of wisdom? Can YOU?

Denise says:
I am fourteen and for the last few months I have been feeling more and more detached from things. My friends get stressed over boys and nail varnish but I can't help feeling those things aren't important when there are so many huge and scary things going on in the world. Wars and terrorism and refugees drowning and people with no home and families having nothing to eat except for what they can find at food banks. My Dad's business might move overseas because of Brexit and then we will be in big trouble. I lie awake at night and worry about it all, but it feels like I'm the only one who cares.

Coco says:
You're not the only one. Growing up means you start looking at the world through adult eyes, and you won't always like what you see. This is a time of change and turmoil, and yes, there are some very upsetting things going on in the world. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by it. Talk to your mum and dad about what Brexit may mean for your dad's job; yes, it may mean change, but he will be thinking about what happens next and can probably reassure you. Wars and terrorism are things you cannot control, but equally, they are things that are unlikely to affect your directly. The refugee situation is very upsetting - why not ask your school if you can do an assembly to raise awareness, or have a collection to warm winter clothes and shoes to be passed on to your local refugee aid group and sent out to help those in need? You can also look at ways to raise funds for the homeless, perhaps to support the street teams that feed them, and have a cake sale or school talent contest with a food-bank item as entry fee to help your local food bank. These things won't make the problems go away, but by doing all you can to help you will feel less powerless. Doing something is always better than doing nothing, in my opinion. Good luck.

Cathy says:
Great advice from Coco - do YOU agree? What would you add? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

JEMMA: MAKING PAPER CRANES!

Reader Jemma and her sister decided to make some origami paper cranes... find out how... and why!

Jemma says:
I got the idea of making paper cranes from Cathy's book BROKEN HEART CLUB. In the story, the friends make paper cranes and the cranes hold a lot of memories for them, including love, sadness and confusion. I looked up how to make the origami cranes on the internet, but it looked confusing so I gave up. My sister had a book on how to make them and I looked at that, but again I found it tricky and gave up. Then my sister began making them for me and suggested I do some parts while she did others parts, and we came up with a routine that suited us both. By the end, I was basically making them myself! I used origami paper which was great, and some ordinary paper which was a bit harder to use but did still work!

In the end, we made 82 paper cranes... it's not quite a thousand, but they look amazing. We have put them on string and hung them all around my bedroom, and I love them! I have stopped making paper cranes for now - after all that folding I am taking a break! I may do some for other people after a while, I'll see. There is a Japanese legend that if you make one thousand paper cranes you can have any wish you like granted to you, but I didn't make a wish as I didn't get that far! I'm not sure I believe the legend, but I guess that if I get to a thousand one day I may find out!

I loved making the cranes - the moral is to keep trying if there's something you want to master, and it was worth it! The cranes look great, and make my room seem so much brighter and really cool, like a festival or a traveller fair. It reminds me of the CC book DIZZY! I had lots of fun learning origami, and message to other readers would be to try it too... windmills and flowers are good to start with, and all of those things will look great strung up around your room! Get folding!

Watch a trailer for the book BROKEN HEART CLUB **HERE**
Watch a quick video tutorial on making a paper crane **HERE**

Cathy says:
I love this! Jemma is right, it helps to have some show you the method for making paper cranes, but once you've got it, you can pretty much make them blindfold! Have YOU got a cool or crafty spin on room decor? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

MOVIE MONDAY: MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

It's movie review time again, and book blogger Kym reviews Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children... rated PG-13.

Kym says: 
Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is a new Tim Burton dark fantasy film based on the book by Ransom Riggs. The film focuses on a boy called Jacob who as a child had heard stories from his grandfather all about the monsters he had battled on his adventures back when he was younger. Jake had always believed the tales, but as he grew up he took his father's word on the fact that his grandfather's adventures were just stories. One day, Jake gets a phone call from his dying grandfather who tells Jake he must find 'the bird, the loop and September the 3rd 1943.'

After discovering that his grandfather's stories may be real, Jake travels to Wales with his father under the advice of his psychiatrist to help with his grief. Jake finds the old children's home where his grandfather grew up. and here he finds the bird, the time loop and 1943. Well, that's all I'm going to say about the plot - clearly I'm not going to spoil the movie for you!

I'm a huge Tim Burton fan and as soon as I found out he was directing the film, I rushed out to buy the book. I was a bit worried when I saw the trailer - it gave the impression that the movie was tailored more towards young teens. However, the movie was fantastic and still had that Tim Burton touch to it. It was so good that I'm going to see it again!

Cathy says:
Ooh... I haven't read the books, but I have seen the trailer for this and having read Kym's review I think I will give it a try! Have YOU seen a cool film recently? COMMENT BELOW or email/ message me if you'd like to review a new release film!

Saturday, 22 October 2016

THE PERFECT CC BOOK FOR AUTUMN...

Readers pick their favourite CC book for the season of mists and falling leaves... make yourself a hot chocolate and settle down for a lovely, lazy, escapist read...


Rosa says:
My fave CC read for autumn has to be MARSH- MALLOW SKYE, because it starts off with Hallowe'en and all the sisters dressed up for trick-or-treating. I love the details about their costumes and this year I am going to try for something a bit like the look the twins did. So, inspiring, too! I love the bit where Alfie jumps out on them (so typical of his annoying-yet-lovable personality) and also the bit where they squash up in the gypsy caravan to tell ghost stories, and the tale of the mysterious Clara Travers begins to unfold.

Sam says:
My favourite CC story with an autumn flavour has to be MOON & STARS from LIFE IS SWEET, which tells Finch's story. It takes place at Hallowe'en and of course a Hallowe'en at Tanglewood is the most wonderful ever. Just perfect!

Faye says:
ANGEL CAKE was the first CC book I ever read and will always be the most special. The story begins in October in Liverpool and runs up until Christmas... and it is absolutely magical. Liverpool is not quite what Anya was expecting, but she finds friendship, family and true love there... what could be better?

Jenna says:
GINGERSNAPS is one of those books I keep coming back to, and as most of the action takes place in the autumn term at school, it fits with the autumn theme! My best scene is where Ginger goes to the canal and finds Sam Taylor, and spots the red fox... plus, blue lemonade! Read it and you'll know why I love this scene so much!

Cait says:
I am a sucker for sad stories and the one that never fails to break my heart is SUNDAE GIRL by Cathy Cassidy. The very last chapter... a long, hand knitted scarf big enough for two people to share, autumn leaves on the ground, a mad dog, a sweet boy with straw coloured hair and an October sky streaked with pink and orange. Best book ever.

Beautiful photo by book blogger Kym; thank you so much!

Cathy says:
It's fascinating to see which of my books have a cool autumn connection, and which books strike a chord with my lovely readers! Do YOU have a favourite CC book, autumnal or not? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Friday, 21 October 2016

HOLLIE: CUPCAKE HEAVEN!

Reader Hollie has a cupcake recipe to share... and if the results are half as good as Hollie's, I think we'll all be happy! Cupcake heaven indeed...

Hollie says:
I made these cakes last night, and I was surprised at just how well they turned out. Have a go... they taste as good as they look!

You will need:
4 eggs
125g caster sugar
100g self raising flour
30g cocoa powder

Method:
Whisk the eggs and the caster sugar together until fluffy. Fold in 100g self raising flour and 30g cocoa, mixing until the batter is smooth. Spoon into muffin cases placed in a cupcake tray, and bake at 180c until the cakes look done. These took about 18 minutes, but it does vary depending on the oven... keep a close eye on them!

Place the cakes on a wire tray to cool. Once cool, cut a piece out of the top of each cake and fill with raspberry jam for a surprise sweet taste!

For the buttercream:
110g softened butter
170g icing sugar
55g cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon milk

Method:
Beat the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add half of the icing sugar and beat until soft and smooth. Add in the remaining icing sugar, the cocoa powder and a little of the milk if needed, to loosen the mixture. Pipe or spread the buttercream onto the cakes and decorate with sprinkles or cake-toppers!

Cathy says:
Whoa... these look amazing! Thank you Hollie... these have gone straight to the top of my list of cool new recipes to try! Have YOU got a fun and foolproof recipe to share? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 20 October 2016

BETH: FANTASY - YES OR NO?

Blogger Beth posts about why she sometimes puts fantasy books aside in favour of contemporary YA...

Beth says:
Hi everyone! I'm Beth, and I own The Books Are Everywhere. Today's post is going to be an interesting one with a very specific focus - can you read fantasy when you're feeling down? I know this sounds very random, but it did stem from somewhere. I posted a couple of weeks ago about my preference of contemporary over fantasy, and ended up talking to Kourtni in the comments about how fantasy can actually be quite draining to read! It got me thinking - and she's right. One of the reasons I prefer contemporary is I find it easy to read whatever mood I'm in...where as I have to really focus on fantasy! But why is this? In fact, I think there's a lot of reasons. I'll discuss them more below.
  • Fantasy tends to be very fast paced
  • Things change a lot!
  • Not only do you have to focus on humans, but there's other beings too! How can I focus on all of these things?
  • Sometimes they're harder to get into or understand quickly - especially if some elements aren't explained well
  • Bad writing doesn't work...at all. You have to be descriptive.
  • I can't produce some of the character names!
  • Why are there made up words?
  • Why is there not a glossary?
Okay, I think you get it! Fantasy does tend to be...made up. It's imaginary, and it's sometimes hard to relate to our real world! For this reason alone, I find it hard to focus on fantasy when I'm feeling down or have other things on my mind, and it tends to be the reason I read a lot of contemporary. With contemporary, I'm able to delve right in. With a real life setting and real life people, it's easy to pick up on other things. But put me in another world, with a mixture of humans and fairies and THEN throw in some romance, complications and everything else...and my brain gets confused.

So, what do you think? Can you still focus on fantasy or do you have to switch to contemporary like me?

Cathy says:
Great post, Beth... and great question! I read a lot of fantasy as a teen but these days I hardly ever do... I just hadn't thought to question why! Do YOU still love fantasy or is contemporary YA your comfort zone? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

TANGLEWOOD MEETS HOGWARTS... A COOL NEW FAN-FIC MIX-UP!

Reader Katie has written a fab new fan-fic mashup that mixes Tanglewood with Hogwarts... a brilliant treat for both CC and Harry Potter fans!

Katie writes:
'We're going to school! We're going to school!' squeaked Coco, bouncing up and down on her bed.
'Eek... Sorting Day for Coco,' Summer whispered.
'You know, for a Gryffindor, you seem a little scared,' snarked Honey, standing in the doorway. Cherry rubbed her eyes and knocked over her glass of water in the process. Skye woke up to the sound of breaking glass and worried that it would be her Remembrall.
'And HOW are you not in Hufflepuff?' said Summer and Honey in unison, Summer jokingly and Honey seriously. The girls got ready and went to breakfast.
'Is it odd that we're all in different houses?' Coco asked, gingerly picking up her wand.
'The traits that the Sorting Hat looks for come from within, not genetics,' Skye explained. Coco and Cherry side-glanced at Honey, her Slytherin tie askew.
'The best wizards can come from Slytherin,' Coco said, giving Honey a hug, but secretly she didn't want to be Sorted into Slytherin.
Charlotte cooed 'Alohamora' at Coco's luggage to check that everything was inside, then waved the girls off as they made their way down the path. 'We'll send an owl every week... no, every day!' Charlotte promised as Paddy rolled his eyes and used a levitation charm to fit Coco's suitcase into the car.
The girls smiled with anticipation as they approached Kings Cross station a few hours later. Trollies loaded, brimming with smiles, Summer and Skye put a hand each on Coco's trolley and chimed, 'Are you ready?' They all pelted towards the solid brick wall between platforms nine and ten, and seconds later Coco's vision was hazy with the steam billowing from the large crimson train protruding from one end of a dark tunnel. Honey and Cherry popped through onto Platform 9 3/4 then quickly hid the fact that they'd been holding hands in their robes. There was a boy with floppy hair and unkempt uniform running around and setting of stink bombs from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.
'Ew, who is that?' Skye asked, then excused herself on the grounds of getting a good seat on the train to go investigate.
Before they knew it, the Hogwart's Express began whistling and hooting to signal its departure. The Tanberry-Costelloes crowded into the carriage and squished up at the window to wave at Charlotte and Paddy before finding their friends in different compartments. Coco sat next to a frizzy-haired first year and they helped each other with their luggage so they could scurry into the boats that carried first years over to Hogwarts Castle.
The entry foyer was full of the excitement of being sorted. Professor McGonagall ushered them into the Great Hall and Coco understood at once why the other sisters loved Hogwarts so much. The whole room was full of golden light, like the church Charlotte and Paddy had got married in, even though it was just a school dining room. Coco barely heard the speeches and the singing but took in every inch of the teacher's table and searched for her sisters in the crowd. Cherry waved, and Skye and Summer and their friends waved too.
It was an agonising wait to reach the letter T... the frizzy-haired girl had been sorted into Gryffindor long ago... but 'Coco TANBERRY' was finally called. Coco approached the Sorting Hat nervously. Coco had wished and wished when she was younger that her pets would speak to her, and now here was an inanimate object speaking to her. A hat! Speaking! The hat mumbled, started singing a little, then fell silent. Then... 'HUFFLEPUFF!'
There was a shriek of laughter from all four tables. The youngest Tanberry, a Hufflepuff! The Hufflepuff table clapped and cheered, but there was bigger applause from the Tanberry-Costelloe girls.
Honey cornered the others as they stumbled out from the feast. The girls were surprised to see Honey was carrying a full goblet of pumpkin juice she'd snuck out of the hall, and she raised the goblet and made a toast. 'Here's to the Tanberry-Costelloe sisters, each unique in their own special way. And here's to Coco, our little Hufflepuff!'
'Hear hear!' The other girls clinked their wands against Honey's goblet, then moved away towards their dorms.
'Remember, you have to knock on the barrel to the rhythm of Helga Hufflepuff!' Honey called, and the girls threw smiles over their shoulders. Coco smiled back as she watched her sisters walk into the shadows...

Cathy says:
A fab story... I loved it! Well done, Katie! Have YOU got a story that might be cool on DREAMCATCHER? Email it through the 'email Cathy' link on www.cathycassidy.com to be in with a chance of having it on the blog! COMMENT BELOW to tell us how you liked this story...

Saturday, 15 October 2016

HEIDI - PEOPLE SHOULD VALUE EVERYONE

Heidi is a hugely inspirational young woman who speaks out on behalf of people with Down's Syndrome. Read her story... she has a lot to teach us all.

Heidi says:
I am twenty one years old and I have Down's Syndrome which is an extra chromosome. I find that some people are very negative towards people with Down's because they don't understand it. They think we are not equal. The things people say make me cry because people don't value us like they should.

Some say people with Down's Syndrome can't have relationships but they can have friendships and relationships just like anyone else. I have lots of friends who care for me in everything. I have a better social life than my mum and am always going out with my friends. Another misconception is that we cannot have a job - well that's rubbish! I have a job I love, working in a hair salon and I am loving it! Lots of people with Down's have jobs. People say mean things but I do not lose heart, I believe all life precious and everyone is fearfully and wonderfully made no matter who they are, and no matter what disability.

Some people say that those with Down's will never be able to live independently, this one especially makes me cry as I live on my own. I have done for nine months now and I am loving it and wouldn't go back to my parents in a million years (well, apart from on Sundays for my Sunday roast!). People say we cannot learn, but I went to two mainstream schools and gained GCSEs in English, French and RE, Asdan maths and BTECs in cooking skills and applied science. I then did courses in hairdressing and customer service. Even medical people say negative things to mums with Down's babies, that they will never walk and talk. Most DS children will, but they may just take a little longer. I started walking at two and a half and anyone who knows me knows I never stop talking until I'm asleep, it's the only time my support workers get any peace and quiet!

I think we should value everyone, and value people for who they are and not what they achieve. I don't know why people say these mean things, buy together we can spread the preciousness of life and perhaps change people's hearts and thoughts. Justice for everyone!

Cathy says:
Heidi is the sister of someone I know, and a totally awesome and amazing young woman who speaks up for what is right. Her words have made a big impression on me and I hope they will on YOU too. Have YOU got a message of support or a story to share with Heidi? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

KATIE: STARTING HIGH SCHOOL...

Reader Katie talks us through the ups and downs of starting high school... it's definitely nothing to worry about!

Katie says:
Starting high school can be a scary thought, but trust me, it's NOT as bad as you might think it is. All summer long I was worrying about starting - I was dreading it. I was worrying, thinking about it all the time, trying to guess what it would be like. I also felt excited - that butterflies in the stomach feeling. It was a mixture of the two things! I was excited about having a new uniform, a new pencil case and bag... choosing my school supplies was one aspect of it all that I enjoyed. It helped me. Just going round the shop, filling my basket with pens, pencils, notebooks; choosing a brand new school bag made me feel I was getting prepared.

The holidays went by way too fast, and soon it was the night before school started. I had a very sleepless night that night. I woke up early and put on one of my new white shirts, my new pleated skirt and my heavy black blazer. I did up my newly polished shoes. My dad drove me to school and after seemed like an endless journey, we parked up and I walked into the playground. Ultra nervous, I walked into the building where I'd be spending the next five years of my life. But... as the day wore on, my nerves melted away. There was so much to so, so much to learn, so many new people to get to know. I was too busy to be anxious. And... it was fun!

By the end of that first week, I pretty much knew my way around the building. My first week was great and I am genuinely looking forward to my time there. So... if you are starting a new school next year, please don't be nervous on your first day. Take the advice of someone who's done it - you will be awesome!

Cathy says:
Brilliant advice from Katie! I agree - the way to handle something like this which is making you anxious is to jump in and get on with it... see it as a big adventure. Have YOU any tips to help readers handle that first day at a new school? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 10 October 2016

YOUR STARS FOR OCTOBER

Horoscope time again on DREAMCATCHER - will Skye Tanberry's predictions ring true for you this month? Read on and see!

LIBRA: 23 Sept - 23 Oct
Your friends mean everything to you... so make sure you're nurturing those friendships. It's easy to take things for granted, and sometimes just the smallest gesture of appreciation can make all the difference in the world.

SCORPIO: 24 Oct - 22 Nov
School has been taking all your time and energy lately... get things balanced again by making time for friends, family and fun.

SAGITTARIUS: 23 Nov - 21 Dec
Your usually upbeat personality has taken a knock recently. Maybe it's an end-of-summer thing, but life isn't as bad as it may feel just now... make an effort to see the bright side and soon you'll be your usual sunny self again!

CAPRICORN: 22 Dec - 19 Jan
You're slightly skint just now... but full of ideas! How about turning some of those inspirations into plans? It may not make your fortune, but you'll have fun and learn a lot. Creativity can often be turned into something useful... go for it!

AQUARIUS: 20 Jan - 18 Feb
You're unsure of where you stand right now... and that kind of indecision is NOT something you enjoy. When there are too many choices and no clear path forward, follow your heart. A way forward will open up for you in a most unexpected way!

PISCES: 19 Feb - 20 Mar
This month may bring conflict amongst your friends, but step back and try not to get pulled into the fray. You're a dreamer, and this is not your fight - your friends will weather the storm and when they calm down, they will need you.

ARIES: 21 Mar - 19 April
Something quite magical may be in the stars for you... a dream come true moment. Trust that things will unfold as they should do and be open to new opportunities. And keep your eyes open, because things may not happen in quite the way you imagine!

TAURUS: 20 April - 20 May
The universe is trying to give you a message - slow down and sort things out! You've been living at full tilt for so long you're not seeing the chaos around you... take a breather and plan some downtime. You know what needs to change... now's a good time to do it.

GEMINI: 21 May - 21 June
Life has thrown a few curve balls at you recently and you may be wondering when fortune will turn around again. The coming months won't be easy, but hold on and you will get through them. Better times are coming.

CANCER: 22 June - 22 July
You're feeling upbeat and hopeful right now, and that's great, but bear in mind that someone close to you may still be struggling. Try to be tactful and aware of their sadness, or you may unwittingly cause hurt and dent the friendship.

LEO: 23 July - 23 Aug
You're a loyal soul but you've been hanging on to some connections long after many would have let them go. It's time to reassess these links and put your energy into positive relationships with those who love and need you most.

VIRGO: 24 Aug - 22 Sept
You are a caring person, but sometimes you give so much that you run out of energy reserves yourself. Take some time out for fun and pamper yourself a little... you'll bounce back much stronger in the long run!

Cathy says:
Oooh... some very interesting predictions here! Does anything ring true for YOU? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

FAYE: MY LIFE WITH LEIGH'S SYNDROME

Reader Faye lives every day with a rare and incurable disease, yet in spite of the challenges she has faced she has created a network to offer support, information and help for other sufferers. Read her inspirational story...

Faye says:
When I was three, my little brother Sammy was very ill. He had been a happy baby, reaching all his milestones until he was twelve months old. Gradually, he lost the ability to sit and to cry. After many tests, he was diagnosed with Leigh's Syndrome, a rare and very serious disease. Sammy passed away at nineteen months old, and it was a terrible time for my family. I was a healthy child, but at seven my walking went a bit wobbly; a consultant said I was OK, but things didn't improve. At twelve I had lots of tests done... I walked into the hospital and came out of it in a wheelchair. I have needed one ever since. I was very ill that summer, and over the following years more and more symptoms appeared... dystonia, fatigue, tremors and pain. Because of what had happened to Sammy, I worried that it might be Leigh's Syndrome and read up about it. A shiver of dread ran down my spine as I matched the tablets I was taking with some of the medications listed on the internet for Leigh's.

I found out I had Leigh's Syndrome officially on New Year's Eve when I was seventeen. I was told my health would only get worse, as the disease has no cure and is terminal. We handled this news alone, with no support - believe me, I looked. Later, at twenty two, I achieved a lifetime dream and began driving, but then I noticed my eyesight wasn't quite right and an eye test led me back to hospital. Tests discovered my optic nerve was damaged and I was classed as severely sighted and no longer able to drive. Blindness was a blow. I am a creative person - my clothes are waiting to be stained with paint, charcoal, ink - but my creativity must remain locked inside because I am blind.

I had studied counselling and when I was twenty when I decided to found Leigh Network, a support group for families affected by this illness. I arrange meetings all around the UK and sometimes specialists come along to give talks and offer information and support. One of the aims is to break the isolation for families going through this, and I also want to raise awareness of Leigh's Syndrome and mitochondrial disease. Our meetings have an uplifting and positive atmosphere with lots of hope and joy. I hope we achieve these aims, and that we help others who are struggling. This is why I do what I do.

You can support the Leigh Network FB page and find out more about Faye's work HERE and check out the main website HERE. Please take a look and help if you can.

Cathy says:
Faye is one of the most inspiring young people I know. Instead of letting her illness defeat her, she works to help others and to raise awareness... she's awesome. If YOU want to send a message of support to Faye, COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

LAURA: I FEEL ALONE

It's problem page time on DREAMCATCHER again, and reader Laura has a problem for Summer Tanberry to solve...

Laura says:
I am thirteen years old and do well at school, and I have a great group of friends and a family who care about me. I am lucky and I know I should be grateful for the life I have, but over the last few months I have been feeling more and more unhappy. It's hard to explain, but the fun has gone from life and everything feels like such an effort. I can't seem to care anymore about school work and even when I am with my friends supposedly having fun, I feel detached and on the outside. My thoughts get so dark that sometimes I wonder what the point of being here at all is. Why can't I be happy?

Summer says:
I do understand this feeling, I promise. It doesn't matter how much the world may think you have going for you, how lucky you seem to be to others, it is still possible to feel very lost and alone. You're depressed, and it's important to understand that depression can be an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, and can happen to anyone. It's not the same as the feeling of sadness we experience after a death or a trauma. Mental health issues are just as serious as any physical illness, but often we try to hide them or see ourselves as weak for having these feelings. I promise you, depression can happen to the strongest of people. Please go along to your GP and explain how you are feeling - print out this blog post if it helps. Your school and family also need to know... support is there if you just find the courage to seek it out. You're in a dark place, but this time will pass... and better days lie ahead. Take care, and please find the help you need.

Cathy says:
I agree with Summer - it's time for Laura to tell her parents and GP about this and get the help she needs to turn things around. Have YOU ever struggled with depression? Do YOU agree with summer's advice? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

NO CHOICE...

An eery, futuristic short story by reader Jess... about the choice between life and death.

The walls of the room gleamed pristine white. Old champagne bottles, filled to the brim with unknown substances, lined the shelves. These substances fed us daily; they were supposed to help us. They didn't. The nurses stood in uniform rows, their gloved hands moving in unison, scrubbing surfaces, sterilising syringes. They were preparing. All that time, they were preparing.

Cryopreservation, that's what they said. Until they could find the cure to the addiction. Bowl after bowl of olives we consumed. Paracetamol? That was too weak, and we weren't in pain. At least not yet; that came later. Chocolate? Someone was allergic. Champagne? That made it worse. We craved olives as oxygen; our lives depended upon them. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, breakfast, lunch, dinner. They were all we ever ate. A constant cycle, slowly killing us.

Cryopreservation was their plan, then. They were going to freeze us. The word hung over us like ice - ice that could be shattered if it didn't work out - a constant reminder of our final fate, Death. Its shadow loomed over us, threatened us, but we had no choice. We had to trust the nurses. There was no escape from this - hospital? People weren't trapped inside hospitals. No, this was a prison. Death. Hell.

The walls glared at us, a ghostly grey, closing in on us. The more we thought of escape, the more we felt the confinement. A nightmare, never fully explained until the end. Only then could we escape. We had a choice - the thought of escape could lead to death, or death could lead to our escape. Most of us chose death. One. More. Bowl. Of. Olives...

Cathy says:
Ooh... shivers! I love real-life style fiction best of all, but once in a while I like to escape into a dystopian fantasy and this ticks all the boxes for that! Do YOU have a favourite genre to read? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!


Monday, 3 October 2016

LIZ: LANGUAGES ARE MY LIFE!

Reader Liz loves languages... and that passion has certainly opened up a world of travel and adventure for her!

Liz says:
I have just begun my second year of living in France and Spain as part of my university degree. Living abroad, especially in a non English speaking country, can be a daunting prospect - but languages have always been a huge part of my life. My parents had lived in lots of different countries before my brother and I were born so they always encouraged us to explore languages. I did French and Spanish at school and went on great class trips to the north of France and to Barcelona, but I still wasn't sure what I wanted to study long term. It was at Sixth Form I really fell in love with languages. I began mentoring younger students, writing for the language department magazine and getting involved with the college TV station. The highlight was a trip to Montpellier in the south of France - we went to school there and lived with French families! I loved my host family and had a wonderful time - Montpellier is really vibrant and has a big mix of cultures. I was so inspired I have even written a YA novel set there!

After A levels, I went to the University of Manchester to study French and Spanish. This was very different to studying languages at school - there was much more choice of what to focus on. Some unis offer the chance to learn about music, history, books, art, theatre or cinema from the countries that speak your languages. I also got to study Catalan, which is spoken in Barcelona, Andorra and the Baleiric Islands. I saw a CC book in Catalan recently, which made me smile!

I also study Mandarin Chinese in my free time, and this led to me joining a uni trip to China! we spent a month in Beijing during a freezing cold winter. The temperature made life more complicated but the snow was beautiful and we had great experiences like meeting pandas and trekking along the Great Wall. I made some friends for life. If you have trouble with languages like French and Spanish, you should try Mandarin - it's so different, and it's very visual, which I love.

I spent a year teaching English in Perpignan in the very south of France, by the Spanish border. This was challenging but rewarding, and the place was stunning. There are the Pyrenees, the Med, salt lakes, beautiful blossomy peach trees... I saw the Filles Au Chocolat series in lots of bookshops, which was pretty cool! I went to Cannes for the film festival and saw Sienna Miller  and lots of other stars on the red carpet; I even made it to Monaco for the Grand Prix! This time, I am going to Avignon in France and Vigo in Spain. So many exciting things have happened to me in the past few years, and all because of languages. I really recommend learning a language, if not at school then in your spare time. They can really take you places!

Read more about Liz's travels on her fab blog: lgfrance.blogspot.co.uk

Cathy says:
I LOVE this post... the big, wide world is such a cool and awesome place, and I totally agree with Liz that travel is magical. I just don't have the whole languages thing under control just yet, but I'm working on it... slowly! What is the coolest place YOU have ever travelled to? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 1 October 2016

MAGAZINE MAD?

Three readers talk about their favourite magazines and explain what those mags mean - or used to mean - to them...

Katie says:
OMG, do NOT get me started! My fave mag used to be CREME. It had all the latest celebrity gossip, all the latest trends and always got things right. It was the most teenagerish thing I was into, the ONLY typical teenagerish thing I was into because it put all the cool pop culture things under one umbrella, and it was a New Zealand magazine. Yay! My photo was in it once when I went to see One Direction in concert - that made a perfect night even more perfect! CREME was the reason New Zealanders knew about celebs and glitz and glam. I managed to wangle a six issue gig as a book reviewer for them, but only one issue was published before the magazine folded. It was still awesome. CREME was a major part of my life, I had a subscription and everything, and I won a bootleg Taylor Swift DVD once! Now my fave is good ol' DOCTOR WHO magazine, now over 500 issues old, but I don't read it that often, I'm more likely to pick up a book these days.

Jessica says:
I grew up with MIZZ magazine. It was the mag I turned to when I wanted fashion tips, had questions about make up or a crush on the latest boyband. MIZZ had all the answers, and the problem page was like a big sister in magazine form, giving me information about the whole growing up thing in a friendly, reassuring way. It was always so bright and fun. My friends read it too and it was like we were all in a club where we knew the world was ours for the taking... because MIZZ mag said so. In real life, things are harder, but I loved that optimism and energy. I grew out of MIZZ mag about the same time it stopped being published, but I never did find another magazine that filled the gap. I am a student now, doing media studies, and in first year I wrote an entire essay about the magazine I loved back when I was twelve!

Jennie says:
SHOUT magazine is the only magazine I ever bother with. It has lots in it... everything from celebs and music and gossip to fashion and beauty products and things to do. It has great free gifts too, sometimes. If you read SHOUT, you know how you should look, what you should do, what music to listen to... not that I need to be told but at eleven it is a scary time when you are trying to get the growing up thing right and it helps to have something as a sort of guideline. I think it helps me to feel more confident and it always seems to see things from my point of view and know what I might be interested in. SHOUT is a good read too, I look forward to it every fortnight. My mum buys it on a Saturday along with a copy of HELLO for her to read and a comic for my sister, and we have a lazy Sunday reading. It's a tradition.

Cathy says:
For me it was the long gone JACKIE mag... and I went on to work for them, which was very cool! What mags do YOU like reading? Or do you prefer websites, blogs and YouTube? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!