Monday, 24 April 2017

JADE: APRIL SHOWERS!

We've had a great April, but life isn't always sunshine - reader Jade has some ideas for how to handle those April showers!

Jade says:
Everytime April rolls around it's the same. Flowers come out, the sun peeks from behind a cloud and I fool myself that it's summer. I start planning picnics and trips to the seaside, and then the sun vanishes and the rain sets in, and I realise that I've fallen for it again. This year I am determined not to let a few spring rain showers stop me from feeling upbeat and happy... I have a plan, and I am willing to share it!

* Rain showers are a part of spring, so don't try to fight them... dress the part! Have a light raincoat packed away in a bag that you can slip on when it's wet, and carry on as usual! I've got a yellow one with toggles that looks a bit like something a fisherman might wear - it makes me feel happy every time I put it on! Wellies and umbrellas are great too... get out there an conquer the elements!

* Wellies are essential if there's a real downpour because there is nothing worse than soggy feet. Choose a bright, cheery pair! Rekindle your childhood days and jump in puddles, splash through streams and squelch through the mud... once you're wet, you're wet, so just go for it and enjoy the sensations! You can always warm up later with a hot bath or shower!

* Take your camera or smartphone out and capture some beautiful images for Instagram or Snapchat. Raindrops on glass or on the shiny surface of a leaf, rain splashing into puddles, the bright colours of umbrellas and wellies... make it a project!

* Take a walk in the woods if you really want to be outside and it's too wet - the trees will shelter you from the worst of it, and woodlands are so pretty at this time of year. There's something magical about woods in the rain! Equally, watching the rain fall onto a lake, river or canal is very soothing.

* Ever tried singing in the rain? Or dancing? It has to be done! Once you get going it is exhilarating and funny... and addictive! Turn your face up to the sky and let the rain slide over your skin. It's supposed to be really good for the complexion!

* Too wet to go out? Don't be sad, think of the summer flowers being watered! This is a perfect day for snuggling inside with a good book, your favourite hot drink and a head full of dreams... and remember, those sunny days will be back soon!

* If all else fails, watch a movie... Singing In the Rain if you love musicals and retro stuff with a rainy theme, or just pick Finding Nemo or The Little Mermaid for watery fun and loads of nostalgia!

Cathy says:
This is a great list from Jade... I will definitely take some advice from this on a rainy day! Do YOU like the rain or do you let it get to you? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 21 April 2017

TAYLOR: THE BOOK THAT HELPED ME...

Reader Taylor explains how CC books have helped him to battle an eating disorder...
Trigger warning: mentions of anorexia/ bulimia in this post.

Taylor says:
This sketch is something I drew recently to illustrate how I think Summer from SUMMER'S DREAM might have been feeling when her illness began to worsen - under pressure, afraid, lost, and with a very distorted view of her own body. I myself am (I think) now recovered from bulimia and borderline anorexia, and at my worst this image was how I felt - and what I saw when I looked in a mirror. I imagine Summer would be just the same.

I identify with Summer more than I would like to admit. It's almost as though we are the same person, except that I was - or am - an actor/ singer rather than a dancer. I actually had CC books recommended to me by my therapist, because they were what her daughter was reading. The books have really helped me to get through those horrible first few months of recovery.

SUMMER'S DREAM will always be a very special book for me. It - and the later books in the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series which follow Summer's story as she slowly recovers - is just an incredible and honest representation of an eating disorder and I am very grateful for that, because it made me feel less alone and that there was hope for me. Thank you, CC!

Cathy says:
Thank YOU Taylor for such an honest and open account of your struggle and what the book SUMMER'S DREAM has meant to you. I LOVE the drawing, which is very powerful, and I am so glad you're on the path to recovery now! Is there a CC book that has meant a great deal to YOU? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 17 April 2017

SARA: SHARE THE CHOCOLATE LOVE

Reader Sara looks at the history of chocolate and why we love it so much!


Sara says:
Cacao, the raw form of chocolate, has been cultivated for more than three millennia... the earliest evidence of its use os Mexico and Guatemala, where chocolate drinks were being used as long ago as 1900 BC. The Maya and Aztec peoples made xocolati (bitter water) into a drink from cacao beans that were fermented, dried and roasted.The resulting cocoa mass is the basis of the chocolate we know today.

The Maya and Aztec people used chocolate in ceremonies, and the cacao bean was used as a kind of currency. The first Europeans to come across chocolate were Christopher Columbus and the Spanish conquistador Cortes, and by the late 16th century chocolate was becoming popular in the Spanish court. It then spread slowly throughout Europe. In the 18th century, chocolate was very popular, but as a drink, not as a food. By the early 19th century, chocolate had been made less bitter and milk chocolate was invented, creating a much sweeter tasting product. Chocolate companies like Frys, Rowntrees, Cadbury's, Nestle and Lindt began to build the production of the chocolate that we know today.

Today, much chocolate production takes place in Africa and it has been shown that child labour is often used to pick the cocoa beans, and that human trafficking and slavery of the child workers is a big problem. It is worth paying extra for FAIR TRADE chocolate to know that it has been produced fairly. We still need to make sure that children are not being exploited so we in the west can have our sweet treats, but I think there is still quite a long way to go - this is the bitter side of chocolate, but it is important to know how our chocolate is made and to let the companies know that we care.

Chocolate is a source of flavonoids and alkaloids which have some health benefits, but too much chocolate is not good as most types are high in fat and sugar. Chocolate is a big part of many celebrations (such as Easter!) and is one of the most popular treat foods we have. Could you live without it? I'm not sure I could!

Cathy says:
Sara raises some very good points about how our chocolate is made... perhaps we need a blog post all about the child workers? Which chocolate is YOUR favourite? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

EDIE: EASTER AROUND THE WORLD!

Reader Edie has written an eye-opening blog on how Easter is celebrated around the world... trust me, it's not all fluffy bunnies and chocolate eggs!


Edie says:
We celebrate Easter in the UK in a variety ways. We might go to church to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, or paint hard-boiled eggs, or hunt around the garden for chocolate eggs left by the 'Easter Bunny.' We might have a special family meal, bring spring greenery into the house and if we have spent Lent abstaining from a food like chocolate, cake or sugar, it will be back on the menu now. But what about Easter in other countries?

In SWEDEN, Easter is celebrated on Easter Saturday and the celebration is VERY different. It is believed that witches plan trouble in the run up to Easter and so children dress up as witches with painted red cheeks and painted on freckles and go from door to door handing out drawings and getting sweets in return, a bit like our Halloween!

In EASTERN EUROPE Easter eggs are ultra important and hard boiled eggs are dyed with onion skins and natural dyes and decorated with a variety of methods, including batik. Intricately painted eggs are an important decoration, and bonfires are lit for family and friends to celebrate together in an echo of old pagan rituals thought to bring light and protection to crops and people alike after a long, hard winter.

In ISRAEL, Easter is a very special occasion and pilgrims holding crosses follow the path taken by Jesus on his journey to his death on Calvary. The procession is known as the Way of The Cross. In the PHILIPPINES public whippings and mock crucifixions take place, while children dress as angels to walk through the town at dawn to celebrate the resurrection. COSTA RICA, MEXICO and SRI LANKA all stage dramatic recreations of the crucifixion and resurrection.

Lastly, in POLAND and SLOVAKIA, Easter Monday is a traditional day for water fights! Nobody is safe on 'wet Monday' and the tradition is thought to be linked to old pagan fertility rites. And of course, many countries around the world are not Christian and so do not celebrate Easter at all, but they often have spring festivals of their own!

Cathy says:
This is great... something to think about while munching your way through all that chocolate, anyway! Do YOU have a favourite Easter tradition? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

THE TEENAGE GUIDE TO FRIENDS!

My fab author friend NICOLA MORGAN has a brand new book out... I asked her to tell you all about it!
Nicola says:
Hello to Cathy's lovely readers! This might be the first time a non-fiction book has been on DREAMCATCHER? I love fiction and non-fiction equally, though it has to have a topic I want to read about, otherwise I'm not going to be engaged by it. So let me tell you why you might be interested in THE TEENAGE GUIDE TO FRIENDS!

It's about the science of friendship. (Science? Me? My school science teachers would be amazed!) Anyway, TTGF explains why people behave the way they do. You know when someone is mean or annoying you? Maybe a friend says something undermining? How you don't feel so comfortable with some people as others? Or a friendship seems to be falling apart? Or perhaps there's group behaviour going on. It feels horrible - until you realise it's most likely not about you: everyone has stuff going on in their heads that makes them behave the way they do. There are a million reasons why people act the way they do. And only one of those possible reasons is you, so probably isn't you!

When we understand this, we can stop beating ourselves up and become empowered to control what we can, feel better about ourselves, walk away from situations or stand up to them: whichever we want. You can't change people and you shouldn't have to. Just focus on your real friends. And one good friend is all you need - it's not about how many friends, but how good your friend is.

Sometimes you might find yourself surrounded by all the wrong people and it's really hard to find friends. If that's how it is for you now,, look ahead to brighter times. Everything changes. THE TEENAGE GUIDE TO FRIENDS has loads of explanations, some science and psychology and lots of tips and strategies.I hope it will make you feel better about yourself and your friends!

TOP TIP: Do something nice for a friend today! It can be something really small and it doesn't have to cost money. They'll feel good and so will you!

Cathy says:
I know from my letters, emails and messages that lots of you struggle with friendships, so I think this book is something we could all do with! I believe in the message so much that I wrote the foreword for it... give it a try, I don't think you'll regret it! Do YOU have good friends or have you struggled to form close connections with others? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

SOPHIE: I'LL LOVE MUSIC FOREVER...

Reader Sophie explains why music is such a big part of her life, and what it means to her...


Sophie says:
I cannot remember when I first played piano, but I must have been around the age of five. My mum taught me the piano until I was eleven, so during this time I didn't achieve any grades or perform much, just played for myself. I loved - and still do - the feeling of achievement of mastering a piece, especially a difficult one. When I was seven, my primary school music teacher gave an assembly on the different instruments he taught, and I decided I'd like to play the flute, as my mum once had. Mum thought I should consider the saxophone, something she'd always wanted to play, but I had chosen the flute and that was that.

I played both instruments without much focus until I reached high school. There, I suddenly had more opportunities to play to an audience. I began having piano lessons with a teacher so I could start doing grades, and played in several concerts over the next few years. I achieved grade five in flute and grade three in piano, and I'm currently in Year Eleven and working on my music coursework for GCSE. I love it! I am almost always sat at the piano playing something - I tend to annoy the other s in the group as they're sick of hearing me play the same pieces!

Playing flute and piano is a great stress reliever. I often go to the piano to play after a long day at school. I don't always practise the pieces I'm working on, I just play what I feel like playing, sometimes a classical piece and other times the chords for a pop song I enjoy. Playing two instruments from a young age has given me a great work ethic. The only way I improve ay a piece is by playing a small phrase again and again, until i can play it in my sleep. I transfer this tactic to other things, too. I study best for tests by doing loads to practise questions, and when acting or dancing I go over small chunks over and over until I get it right. I know this will help me in the future, which is very reassuring.

I'm not sure what the future holds for me, but I don't plan to play either flute or piano professionally. I don't even know if I will take A level music next year; it depends on which career path I choose to take. However I DO know that I will not stop playing, and that I shall love music forever.

Cathy says:
I love this! Sophie's passion makes even a diehard non-muso like me want to pick up an instrument and make some music! Do YOU have a secret musical skill? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

MARIE: SMALL ISLAND...

Reader Marie talks about her hopes and fears for the years ahead now that Britain has come out of the EU...

Jodie says:
My dad used to joke that I had the soul of a nomad, just like him. As a child we travelled a lot and once lived for a year in Italy and two and a half years in Greece. I grew up thinking the whole of Europe was my home... I have an Italian grandmother and we still have lots of friends in Greece. When we lived there we were on an island called Crete and we ran a small hotel and taverna for tourists. So I grew up knowing how to speak Italian and Greek, and then at school in the UK I learned French too. Languages fascinate me, and I knew that I wanted to study them at uni.

I think because my parents were adventurous and liked to travel, I always thought that was normal and it was something I knew would be a huge part of my life. I imagined growing up to live in different places, like Andalusia in Spain or the Basque country, and the Greek islands and Albania and places like Serbia and Latvia that I had never visited but just sounded so cool. I thought if I studied languages I could be a translator, like the people at the European Parliament in Brussels who translate everything the MEPs say, or maybe work in the tourist industry.

I'm studying A levels now, in Spanish and French, but my plans have fallen apart. I wanted to study at a uni where part of my languages course could take place in a uni in Europe, but some of these courses may not happen now because of Brexit. My brother's girlfriend is Spanish so I am worried she won't be allowed to stay here, and my sister works in Italy and we don't know if she will be allowed to stay there. Lots of people at school say it's silly to worry and things will go on as before, but I think things have changed. I used to look at Europe and feel a part of it, and now I don't, and I don't even know if my grandmother can stay here in the UK because everyone is talking about sending immigrants back.

I used to be European, and I felt like the culture and life and rainbow colour of Europe was mine. Now it seems I live on a small, grey island which is scared of everyone else and is pushing away its closest friends and neighbours like a moody child. I don't recognise the place I live anymore, and the future I had planned is all ruined.

Marie is a pen-name - the writer of this blog asked to be anonymous.

Thank you to amazing young photographer Ellie for the fab images; and to brilliant model Niamh!

Cathy says:
I've had quite a few messages and emails from readers worried about how Brexit may affect their futures, so Marie is not alone in being concerned. Her blog is moving and poignant, and I very much hope that she will still get to have the future she dreamed of, and that her family can stay together. Has Brexit made an impact on YOU? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

ANITA: MY BROTHER DRIVES ME CRAZY!

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER... and reader Anita has a problem for SUMMER TANBERRY to solve!

Anita says:
Lately my brother has been so uptight, always trying to get me into trouble. If I try to tell my mum she tells me to stop being silly and to 'grow up' and ignore him, but how can I? I feel like I never want to see him or talk to him when I get home, but that isn't very nice, so I always chat and try my best and he is always just mean and moody back. Although occasionally he does understand me and helps me. Most of the time, though, he is moody and blanks me. How can I get him to change without confronting him, and without getting my mum involved?

Summer says:
Our family has its fair share of tensions, trust me... and Honey, my oldest sister, has been very moody and stroppy at times. Often this is when something outside is upsetting her, and that may be the case for your brother? If you don't want to involve your mum, the choice is either to ignore what's happening and hope it passes with time, or to talk gently with your brother and explain how much his attitude is hurting you. It shouldn't be a confrontation... more a chat about how much he means to you and how low you feel when he seems unhappy or impatient with you. Let him know you'll always listen if HE wants to talk about anything, and that you love him, no matter what. This might sound scary - you're making yourself vulnerable by being so open about your feelings - but it's a risk that may pay off and bring you closer. This hasn't always worked with Honey, I admit, and in that case the best way forward is to stay out of the firing line! Focus instead on giving your brother some space and avoiding anything that may wind him up. Be friendly and upbeat, but don't get involved... until this phase has passed and he is ready to be a loyal brother again! Good luck.

Cathy says:
Tricky - it's hard to know what may be upsetting Anita's brother, but unless he is willing to share his feelings she may not ever know. The important thing is not to take his moods personally, as Summer is right to point out that they may be linked to outside worries. Can YOU add anything more to Summer's advice? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

YOUR STARS FOR APRIL...

It's horoscope time again on DREAMCATCHER... and Skye Tanberry has been crystal gazing! What does April have in store for YOU?

Aries: 21 Mar - 20 Apr
Spring has put a whole new energy into everything you do. You want to be outside as much as you can, cycling, walking, exploring... just hanging out. Add sunshine and friends into the mix and you're happy - life feels like an adventure right now, so don't waste a minute of it!

Taurus: 21 Apr - 20 May
It's time to widen your net and explore new interests - step outside your comfort zone and find a new talent! Spring is a great time to sign up to new clubs and classes, or to learn a new skill or sport. Take a look around you at what's on offer and give it a go!

Gemini: 21 May - 20 Jun
You've worked hard towards your goal, but things are not moving as fast as you'd like... don't get stressed or anxious about this. Fate has everything under control, so trust that things are unfolding as they should and relax a little and have some fun. It's allowed, promise!

Cancer: 21 Jun - 22 Jul
Creativity is still fizzing for you - new ideas and new skills are looking great at the moment. Take this chance to push your dreams a little further, even if it means finding courage to do something you've never tried before. The outcome could be amazing!

Leo: 23 Jul - 22 Aug
You have found a new courage to be honest, open and to move forward towards your long term goals. Things have been tough, but look at how far you have come in spite of it all - and focus on how much further you can go if you stay focused and stay aware of what is needed. You can do it!

Virgo: 23-Aug - 22 Sept
A friend who seemed to let you down recently is heading for trouble herself - will you reach out to her now that she's struggling? This is a time to assess what you need from a friendship and to step away from some influences who are pulling you down, but hold onto your compassion and kindness no matter what.

Libra: 23 Sept - 23 Oct
Fed up with rumours and gossip? I don't blame you! Mean chat isn't fun, it's damaging - and if someone close to you is hooked on gossip it could be time to let go. Look for positivity, fun and support and you may just find yourself with new and inspiring friends!


Scorpio: 24 Oct - 22 Nov
Someone at school or work is trying to tell you something, and you're not listening to the message - calm things down and pay attention to what is going on around you, because this is a message you are menat to hear. Small changes will bring big rewards!

Sagittarius: 23 Nov - 22 Dec
The end of April brings a brilliant new opportunity that could change things dramatically for you. It may not be immediately obvious, but things are changing - so get ready to ride the wave! After a while of feeling lost, you are definitely back on track!

Capricorn: 23 Dec - 20 Jan
Romance is brewing - and for once, it involves someone you actually like! Tread carefully, as your crush may not be as confident as you about taking things forward, but whatever happens, enjoy the knowledge that others out there can see your worth and your uniqueness.

Aquarius: 21 Jan - 19 Feb
You have not been afraid of change in 2017, and now some of those small changes are paying off. Bit by bit, you are moving into a new phase of confidence and power, where you will get to call the shots. It's exciting - but use that power wisely!

Pisces: 20 Feb - 20 Mar
Don't wriggle out of taking on a new responsibility - it brings big opportunities with it, some of them very unexpected! Hard work now will be rewarded in the summer, so try to see the big picture and give everything in life your best attention. It will be worth it!

Cathy says:
Interesting stuff... I think! Do YOUR predictions ring true this month?  COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

ROBIN STEVENS... CREAM BUNS AND CRIME!

My fab fellow writer ROBIN STEVENS has a new book out... and it's perfect for any budding detectives and cream bun fans! Find out more...

Robin says:
I'm so pleased to have been asked to write a blog for Cathy's reader blog! A month ago I was doing a murder mystery workshop with a class who decided to make their murder victim ME... and my murderer was none other than CATHY CASSIDY! I tried to explain to them that it wasn't very likely, because Cathy is the nicest person around, but I'm not sure they believed me. So I guess I had better make this really good, to make doubly sure I'm safe!

I've been working on the MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE MYSTERIES for almost four years now, and with each book Hazel and Daisy's world becomes bigger and more defined in my head. There are so many stories that I want to tell my fans, both about the characters I've created and the stories, books and authors who have inspired me - and now I finally can!

In CREAM BUNS AND CRIME I reveal the origins of the Detective Society's greatest rivals, the Junior Pinkertons, and tell you what happened to Beanie and Kitty at Christmas while Daisy and Hazel were in Cambridge solving the mystery of Maudlin College. I also tell you what real-life mysteries I was thinking about when I wrote my books, and finally show (if you didn't already know) what a HUGE detective fiction nerd I am. CREAM BUNS AND CRIME is full of my favourite book recommendations for mystery lovers new and old - if you love Daisy and Hazel's adventures and don't know what to read next, I hope this helps you!

If you've read my books, you'll know all about bunbreak, the word that I use any time Daisy and Hazel pause in their detective work to eat something sweet. And if you haven't read my books, welcome to bunbreak - I know you'll love it! Bunbreak is very important to my detectives and very important to me - I love to read about eating almost as much as I love to eat, and baking is one of the ways I like to relax. So I've filled CREAM BUNS AND CRIME with plenty of delicious recipes for you to try out. Somehow it never occurred to me that I'd written a cookbook - but now I can see my book on the cookery charts! I don't think I've ever been prouder!

And by the way, I promise that I am currently working away as quickly as I can on Daisy and Hazel's next full-length murder mystery. If you want to know where it's going to be set, you'll just have to solve the puzzle of Hazel's letter to Daisy in CREAM BUNS AND CRIME!

Cathy says:
Oo-er... me, a murderer? I'm a pacifist, honest! I'll be checking out Robin's new book, which sounds RIGHT up my street (cream buns? What's not to like?) and I hope YOU will too! Tell me more about your fave reads in a COMMENT BELOW!

Friday, 7 April 2017

YZABELA: READING CC IN ROMANIA!

Another in our occasional series about readers around the world... meet Yzabela, a Romanian girl who loves Cathy Cassidy books!

Yzabela says:
One summer vacation, I started searching for a new book to read at the library. I am fourteen years old, and coming from Romania, I read a lot of novels by Romanian writers, but I wanted to find new ideas, new stories and new dreams. I decided to try the foreign writer section - and this is how I first came to discover Cathy Cassidy's books.

The first one was CHERRY CRUSH - what caught my attention was the characters and what they represented, especially Cherry, a very shy and reserved girl who had no friends amongst her classmates but soon had the friendship and support of Shay Fletcher.

It was an unusual book with an interesting plot... so interesting that I had to get a second book, MARSHMALLOW SKYE. I really liked this book. Skye was a great character to read about - a really creative girl who loved vintage clothes and history. She had a mystery to unravel, trying to get to the heart of Clara's secret - that's all I can say without giving spoilers, sorry! Leaving aside the mystery of the story I truly felt that I could relate to Skye.

Then came the third book, SUMMER'S DREAM. Summer was the most hardworking and determined of the sisters, always striving to reach her best. This book made me realise that you must fight for your dreams and never feel that they are impossible, no matter what that dream may be. Yes, you may need to put in a lot of hard work, but the journey will be fun!

Cathy's books hooked and impressed me. I love the books very, very much and they have even given me ideas and inspiration for my own book, based on my own life called 'Painting the Stars of My Teens.' I hope to go on reading CC books... and perhaps one day be a published author myself!

Cathy says:
I love this... hearing from dedicated readers all around the world is one of my favourite parts of being an author! Has a book ever changed YOUR life or made a huge impression on you? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

SPRING HAS SPRUNG!

What do you love best about Spring? I asked readers to share their thoughts... this is what they said!

Demi says:
Being able to sit outside at cafes is the best sign of spring for me... sunshine and friends, a drink and a cake, watching the world go by... what could be better?

Jessica says:
Bring on the warm weather! For me, spring is all about new leaves on the trees, being able to wander around in a t-shirt at last, going out on my bike - and Easter, of course!

Katie says:
This year, we're off to Greece and Italy on a school Classics trip - how cool will that be? Easter in a Catholic country! When I was little, the Easter Bunny came but even now there is chocolate left out on Easter morning... it's a chocolate feast! Spring really 'springs' in other places, but here in New Zealand it's more that winter sort of melts away. And right now, it is NOT melting! We've begun our descent into winter!

Kelly says:
Winter is quite a grey season, so for me it's seeing the plants in the park burst into colour again and the birds singing. It's not just nature, either - everyone seems chirpier once the hour goes forward and the sun starts shining!

Sophie says:
For me, spring is a time of reawakening when the daffodils come out again and it's time to visit the garden centre and prepare new seeds for the garden. Baby lambs are born and it gets warmer and lighter, and it gives me new hope about my life. I love Easter, too, as it brings out my creative side, but mostly I look forward to those chocolate Easter eggs... who doesn't?

Val says:
Wild flower picking, long walks, seaside, hills, farms, picnics, camper vans, tulips, new lambs, fresh new beginnings... but most of all, the run up to summer!

Khara says:
My mum is mad on gardening so when she starts pottering about the garden and planting things again after a long grey winter, I know the seasons are changing! I also love the extra hour of evening light, and being able to sit out in the garden or even eat outside if it's warm enough!

Kym says:
Fresh early mornings with the sun coming up, dandelions popping up everywhere... it's not too hot or too cold. And cherry blossom!

Zaila says:
I love the fact that there is new life... it always feels like a fresh start, a new beginning, a chance to start over.

Thanks to talented photographer Casey for the gorgeous shots accompanying this feature!

Cathy says:
I love the joy that spring can awaken in us all... it really is a fresh beginning! What do YOU like best about the changing seasons? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

JO: I DON'T FIT IN...

It's problem page time on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Jo has a dilemma for HONEY TANBERRY to solve... will you agree with her verdict?

Jo says:
This is going to sound arrogant, but I am not arrogant and I don't think I am 'better' than anyone else, I promise, it is just that I really, really don't fit in here. My school is not a good one, the teachers are stressed and change all the time and when you are being taught by supply teachers everyone messes about and you can't learn. You have to tread carefully so as not to be bullied and although I have a couple of friends, I don't think they 'get' me at all. My family are struggling and my dad is unemployed at the moment, my mum working nights. We live on a rough estate and my little brother is going off the rails, involved with a gang of kids who are always in trouble. I cry myself to sleep at night because I don't want this life, I don't belong here. I get good grades at school and I dream of going to university to be a doctor, but the way the science teaching is at my school I don't think I stand a chance of getting the marks I need. Nobody seems to care about the future, but it's the only thing I have to hold on to... a way out of a life I hate.

Honey says:
Whoa. I understand that feeling of not fitting in and wanting something different, that sense that family and friends don't understand you. In fact, I didn't know how lucky I was, but things are tougher for you, I can see that. Let's look at each issue. Your school is struggling, and if you want the kind of grades that will take you to uni to study medicine, that's not good enough. Are there other schools locally with better reputations that could take you? Changing schools is not easy, but could make a huge difference to how you are feeling. Talk to your parents - present your reasons logically and have suggestions and plans in place. They want what is best for you, no matter how stressed they may be themselves. If a new school is not an option at this point, don't panic - work hard and research good Sixth Forms for after GCSE stage. This is a point where many students switch school/ college and it is exactly the point where you need good teachers. Your dream is possible, I promise! Your dad will hopefully get work again and your mum may be able to choose better hours, but meanwhile let them know how worried you are about your brother. It sounds as though he is looking for by choosing to be a part of the gang, but with family support he may think again. Talk to your parents, brother and friends - even to supportive teachers - you may find they understand you more than you suppose. When life is difficult, knowing that others are looking out for you can make all the difference. As for that dream - hang on tightly, and do everything you can to make it happen.

Cathy says:
Great advice from Honey for a very challenging problem... what would YOU add? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 3 April 2017

JASMINE: CERAMICS ARE MY ESCAPE!

Reader Jasmine explains how learning the craft of pottery and ceramics changed not just the way she saw school, but life as well...

Jasmine says:
When I started in Year Seven, I hated art. It was so far out of my reach - paints and pencils where no good for a girl with Ataxia and Ehlers Danlos who struggles to even hold a pencil let alone create art with one. Abstraction confused me because of my autism, which struggled with such concepts. So, as I much I wanted to, art was was just never something I could succeed at
When I was in Year Nine, my art teacher suggested I tried ceramics as he knew I had some sort of artistic talent inside of me. Well, he was right! From the first moment I touched the clay, I was hooked by its texture. It made me feel so calm and temporarily this would take my anxiety away. I could create beautiful things and could make the visions going on my head into a reality.

When I was in Year Nine picking options, I was not sure what to do. Academic subjects such as History and Geography took a lot of writing which my dyslexia could not cope with, while subjects like Technology and Food Tech held too many safety risks with my involuntary shakes. I spoke to my art teacher. He said of course he would continue teaching me ceramics even if this was not the route the rest of students where taking. He said if I was willing to put the effort in so was he. I am so thankful for this teacher's kindness and dedication - without him I would never have discovered art as my escape, my therapy.

While I was in Year Ten and Eleven, stressing out over the impending doom of colleges, seizures and exams I could always rely on ceramics to be there for me. Each new technique I learnt was like an escape to a whole new world. It felt like magic. Ceramics has given me an opening to art and made me explore, it has helped me leave the rigidity of my autistic mind and experience new things, and for this I will be forever thankful. Who knows - maybe I will even make a career out of it someday!

Cathy says:
When I first saw the pictures of Jasmine's ceramics work, I was blown away. I studied ceramics at exam level too, so I know how hard it is! I knew I had to ask Jasmine to write about her talent! Do YOU have a skill or talent you could share on DREAMCATCHER? Or a school subject you really love? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!