Thursday, 23 March 2017

FANCY FOOTWORK...

Readers tell all about their favourite footwear... read on to find out how they step out in style!

George says:
I spotted these shoes a few months ago and it was love at first sight! They were on the Schuh website, part of a whole range by Irregular Choice inspired by Disney's Cinderella. Most of the other designs were very girly and princess-pretty, and that's not my thing, but the ugly sisters... now you're talking! Trouble was, they were too expensive - I'd have needed my own fairy godmother to afford them! Then to my amazement, the Christmas stars aligned, Schuh dropped the price to nearly half and I was given Christmas money to spend on myself... so, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo! Not everyone likes them - someone said they were the worst shoes he's ever seen, and didn't even match, but that's why I like them! A different character on each foot, a different coloured sparkly bow on the back, exactly the right amount of purple hearts. Drusilla and Anastasia have created a happy-ever-after for my feet!

Cathy says:
I'm in love. I adore Ash boots anyway, but blue denim Ash boots embroidered with flowers? What could be better? And fancy silver bits on the straps... just wow. I always wear flat boots and I have tried a million styles over the years, but I always come back to these because they are so comfy and they always look great. I generally just go for black ones, but I could not resist these... well, they're something special, right? Summer boots! I ordered them over the internet and I paid full price, but they were a bargain to me... #HappyFeet!

Kym says:
I got these Harry Potter shoes last January in Primark. I don't usually shop in Primark but I was with a friend who wanted to have a look; the shoes were £9 and they've lasted exceedingly well considering the price! Buying them was a nostalgia thing for me - I used to collect Harry Potter stuff years ago, even before the movies. I had PJs and a Harry Potter bag! In the pic, I'm wearing the shoes with mismatched socks... I got them for Xmas. Every tear my nan gets me a box of Fly Flot socks, twelve pairs with different patterns. I always mix and match!

Cathy says:
Did you spot my new boots in this blog? Well, I couldn't leave them out! Do YOU have a fave pair of shoes for springing into spring? COMMENT BELOW to tell us all!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

SOULMATES: THE TERM IS PLURAL FOR A REASON!

Regular contributor Emma writes about soulmates... and why we'll almost certainly be meeting more than one of them!

Emma says:
Once upon a time, in a faraway suburban town with a fruit themed name, lived two strangers. After a chance meeting, at an idealistic location, their souls became intertwined in a bond believed to last forever. The two become inseparable, as if they had met in a previous life. They can effortlessly communicate on every level. After about half an hour of bliss, an obstacle intervenes to separate the star-crossed lovers (they are almost always star-crossed, right?) However, after a meaningful montage paired with a Peter Gabriel song, an act of love, the two reunite. They re-ignite their flame and solve the given problem with almost no repercussions. They live happily ever after.

Of course, this would never happen, but it's what the majority of movies and novels lead us to believe it is like to meet our 'soulmate'. Drawn together by some higher power, destined to be together forever. This is not a rant about how love is a lie and soulmates don't exist - they do, just not in the way we are led to believe.

Throughout our lives we will encounter different 'soulmates' at different stages. Like friends who drift in and out of our lives, they all have a set purpose. They teach us something, good or bad; awaken us, help us discover something we didn't know was there. When we are ready, a soulmate will come into our lives to teach us the lesson life has planned for us. These lessons, big or small, combine to make us the person we are meant to be.

Asking why we are drawn to a soulmate is like asking why we breathe it's a natural part of us we feel we couldn't live without. Our soulmates are believed to be a mirror of ourselves, and the way I see it is that all our life we stand in front of this mirror. Each soulmate gives us a different perspective, help us see something we didn't notice before. However, the chances are this person won't be the person you end up marrying or spending your life with. Just because someone's your soulmate does not mean they are the 'one'. That's a lesson I learned from Dawson's Creek! It's mostly because a relationship with such thrilling highs also has extreme lows. The connection is too intense and can be overwhelming.

In conclusion, we change constantly throughout our lives and our needs change too, including the kind of relationship we want and with who. Life is erratic, but perhaps the only thing you need to know for certain is that each piece will fit into the puzzle, one by one, through each stage of your life.

Cathy says:
Wow, so much food for thought here, and a great way to make sense of life! Do YOU believe we have just one soulmate in life, or many? COMMENT BELOW to have your say! 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

FAB FICTION: SCRAMBLE!

Reader Jess, age thirteen, has written a brilliant short story to keep you on the edge of your seats...

Jess says:
Autumn comes, and with it, the cold. My hands are numb, but my eyes are open and alert, like a cornered dog. The stage seems huge in the fading sunlight. Soon the field will be full of people, warmed up against the night's chill. All eyes will be fixed on me and the three people who have come to mean more to me than anyone else. Alex comes up behind me, slipping his arm around my shoulders, wrapping me in a nervous hug. He's shaking almost as much as I am. 'OK?' he asks. The other two approach too; we are one gooey, emotional mess.

This is our first festival gig as a band. We are Scramble. the biggest name in the indie pop scene right now. We met on a film set, where we featured in a movie as a group of teenagers, which of course we are. We started playing music together and it took off from there. I don't know how we got a music deal, but we did - and now this. We're so nervous. A tour around the UK starting at one of the UK's biggest music festivals? Insane.

We wandered round the festival earlier on, looking at the stalls, messing around; it was amazing. We went on the ferris wheel, Chloe screaming loudly. We tried the spicy chilli jam at one of the food stalls, and Michael's face went red as a tomato! I have so many selfies, so many memories. We go backstage to get ready and I put on my dress and jacket, go and wait.The noise from the crowd is intensifying minute by minute, and as lead singer, I have to be the one to impress them.

With Alex on guitar and bass, Chloe on keyboard and Michael on drums, I couldn't wish for a better band. These people are my friends... my family, almost. Michael taught me how to code computer games, Chloe taught me how to dance, Alex... well, so much. He taught me how to relax, play guitar, sneak out into the fields next to the film set and sing in the dead of night. They are the world to me and I love them - I love them all. Five minutes until we start. Michael wishes me luck and goes to sit at his drum kit, ready. Two minutes. Chloe high fives me and leaves. It's just me and Alex. One minute. He kisses me on the cheek and leaves. Thirty seconds. Twenty. Ten. Now!

I walk on into the darkness. I hear the introduction, dimly hear the roar of the crowd. I open my mouth. The lights come on, blinding me. I sing, and my confidence comes flooding back. What was all the worry about? This is easy! I sing and sing, every song sounding as good as when we were in the studio.The atmosphere is electric. No one can touch me. I am flying, flying free. The audience screams. They love us. I have found where I belong.

Cathy says:
Wow! This is such an amazing story! I absolutely love it. What do YOU think? COMMENT BELOW to tell Jess what you think!

Monday, 13 March 2017

JENNIFER: WHAT CC BOOKS MEANT TO ME!

Reader Jennifer shares her experience of growing up with CC books and tells how they have helped to shape her life choices!

Jennifer says:
I'm eighteen, and when I was younger I spent years poring over Cathy Cassidy books and adoring the stories. I once met Cathy at a signing in Blackpool; she took my collection of dog-eared books as a huge compliment, telling me she loved to see books that were well read. I still love those books - they're like a warm hug when I feel like my life is getting too adult-y and unstable and I just want to read about clumsy first kisses and school dramas. These books had a huge impact on me.

I actually went vegan after reading the CC website and researching more about the lifestyle. SCARLETT mentions that she sees no difference between cutting up a kitten and cutting up a worm, and it really got my thirteen-year-old self thinking. There's so much stigma around being vegan which is a shame because there are a million reasons it's great. Green & Blacks and Vego both do brilliant chocolate, so I don;t feel I'm missing anything. I'm currently a vet student at uni, and last year spent some time in Lanzarote working with an animal charity, which was amazing.

Although I'm way past the age demographic for CC stories now, I will always love the the books and the characters. Those books make the world more easily navigable for teens - I learned a whole lot about life from where I was holed up in my bedroom with my cat snoozing on my lap! SCARLETT made me brave, DIZZY made me thoughtful, Cat made me bolder, Hannah made me more caring and the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS showed me how important family and friends are. These are lessons I will treasure forever.

Cathy says:
This post is just awesome... it makes all the hard work worthwhile! Do YOU have a particular book or character that made a big impression on you? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

ELLIE: A REAL LIFE COCO!

Reader Ellie is animal mad, just like our very own Coco Tanberry - read on as she tells us all about her fascinating life!

Ellie says:
Which CHOCOLATE BOX GIRL do I have the most in common with? Well, it has to be Coco, of course! She has a massive passion for animals, horses especially, and will do what she believes is right. She also has an independent attitude and great taste in music! Ahem! Like Coco, we have ponies... lots of them! My mum and dad broke up when I was young, and my dad found his other half again in Esther, a German woman who looks as if she should be modelling for Vogue! Esther totally throws the stereotype of a stepmother in the bin, as she is so kind and funny. But... first things first, let's get back to where the horses fit in!

When we first heard that dad was going to live in Germany, at Ehrenburg Castle, which our step grandparents run, we were very excited to hear there were horses. What we didn't know was how many horses! They are all beautiful and we have a few newbies too, like Funky Frog the foal. I love them, as there is always something to do like take them out, or groom them, or exercise them.

My step grandmother runs a trekking business where horse enthusiasts bring their own horses tp ride out across the countryside. Unfortunately, I have missed a few of the trekking years as I have been with my mum in England, but we have visited and helped to look after the horses. We look them over and give them a good wash and brush down before turning them out in the paddock at the top of the hill. It keeps us very busy!

There are so many good memories and fun that it totally outweighs the negatives, which are very few. The only real downside I can think of is seeing a horse develop some kind of illness or infection, such as mud fever... but so far this year we are going strong with no incidents of illness. Phew! I actually think horses are amazing - their temperament can be so very like us humans, as can their behaviour, that's quite an amazing and slightly scary thought! From this fact right down to little details such as the distinctive smell of a horse and the feel of their flanks, I love it all. Like Coco from the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series, I have other interests too... in fact, my long term ambition is to be an artist, and the horses certainly give me something to work with. Here is a watercolour I've done of one of the ponies, Ingie. My mum says she's very proud!

Cathy says:
Wow... I think maybe I should be writing a book about Ellie's life! A castle! Wow! Are YOU just like one of the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 10 March 2017

DEBORAH: CHARITY WEEK!

Reader Deborah tells us all about the fund-raising ventures her old school made during it's annual charity week...

Deborah says:
When I first joined my old secondary school, each house had a particular charity which we would annually raise funds for during charity week. We would have lots of activities and sales to raise money and we'd then have a house assembly and present the money to the charity. Our particular house charity was one which helped children suffering from brain tumours, and it was run by a mother who had sadly lost her son to the condition. During the first charity week I took part in, I baked one of my best ever cakes for the bake sale, and it was a big hit. Every single slice was sold and the teachers were surprised that I'd been the person to bake it! I got a commendation award, but better still was the knowledge that I'd helped the charity.

In another of our charity weeks, we each paid 50p to do a Harlem shake video, which was a lot of fun. We raised over £2000 that time, and it was such a heart warming feeling. Eventually, we stopped the charity weeks as the teachers who had run it left the school, but we still went on doing smaller events and fund raisers for charity, and everyone was welcome to support in any way they liked! If you school doesn't do anything like this at the moment, why not create your own charity week? Talk to a senior member of staff about running a fundraiser for a particular charity or talk with your friends and organise something on a smaller scale. We can all help to make the world a better place!

Cathy says:
I love the enthusiasm and energy of this piece, and the wish to make the world a better place. Have YOU ever raised money for charity? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

JO: CRAZY LOVE TRIANGLE!

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER - can Honey Tanberry find the right advice for reader Jo?

Jo says:
I had a crush on this boy at school for a few weeks. Then I discovered he actually liked my best friend... she knew I liked him but she was crushing on him too. At a recent disco, they kissed and he asked her out, and she said yes. Don't get me wrong, I am really happy for them both, but I can't pretend that I'm fully OK with them going out. I want to be friends with the boy, but it hurts, and I don't want to feel like a third wheel, or for things to get awkward. What should I do?

Honey says:
Hmm, cupid has rotten aim sometimes, right? Teen love can be complicated and awkward, but it rarely lasts long, so try your best to take this in your stride and even if you feel hurt by what's happened, act as though you're fine with it. Of course, hanging out with your friend and her boyfriend all the time would just rub salt into the wounds, so make time for new friends and other activities; stay busy and you won't feel so stuck in the middle of it all. Plan a busy social life, lots of fun and keep things busy at home and with school work too. It helps! I always say that a new crush is the best way to get over a failed romance, so you could start looking around for a new boy to get to know, but then again that line of thinking has got me into trouble in the past, so maybe not! Love hurts, but the hurt won't last forever, I promise.

Cathy says:
Good, honest advice from Honey... do YOU agree with her suggestions for Jo? What would YOU do? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 6 March 2017

ANAEL: JOURNALISM ROCKS!

Reader Anael tells us why journalism matters - and why it means so much to her!

Anael says:
Journalism is everywhere. It is the thing that shapes our world, and the thing that can report news as fast as the speed of light, worldwide. We have all heard of journalism, but do we really know what it is? Journalism comes in so many forms, from newspaper reports and magazine articles to blog posts and historical profiles of the great people who have come before us. We can all choose the area of journalism we are most interested in, our strongest point. Every featured post you see on the Evening Standard newspapers are just one tiny feature in the big world of journalism. How can we get involved, leave our own prints in the sands of time? Here is a short step-by-step guide to get your journalistic juices flowing!

1. Before you start, it is worthwhile to explore the different areas in journalism. There are many simple fields but there are also many technical ones which are used in more specialised areas. The two simplest themes are PRIMARY MOTIVATION and HUMAN INTEREST. Primary motivation stories are stories which connect people to each other and to issues that matter in their lives. It can also be described as a story which exposes facts that are hidden or unknown. Human interest journalism is definitely my favourite field, though, because you as the writer, are putting other people at the heart of the story and making them feel involved and accepted in the journalism community.

2. When you have decided on your favourite field, it is helpful to look at some examples. If you are stuck for ideas, it can help very much just to look at the world around you. Think about these things: what would you like to change/ put right in the world? Are there things about your community which could be highlighted? Are there things you have noticed that others may have missed? Note down inspiration and ideas in case you forget!

3. Get into character and make contact with your inner journalist! If there's something you feel readers would enjoy, take action - often journalists interview people, but if that's not possible just observe the subject and take notes.

4. Every journalist has a different writing style, so make sure it is somethings others will enjoy. By all means throw in facts and statistics, but remember it has to be entertaining and intriguing too. If you know you'll be writing more on the subject, finish your article on a cliffhanger and add suspense to leave your reader on the edge of their chair, wanting more. My style is debate style writing, and shortly I'll be writing about whether people believe in ghosts or not. I'll make sure I show both points of view!

5. Before you post anything online or publish anything for others to see, be aware that some people may not like what you have written. That's OK, but be sure you have read through your work and checked your facts. Is it something you are happy for everyone to see? Is it going to offend anyone?

I have just started a blog and am running a competition where readers can comment on whether they believe in ghosts or not - most comments will be added to my blog if added before 20th March 2017. For more info, click here!

Cathy says:
Great blog - as someone who worked for a long time in magazine journalism, I found this fascinating! Would YOU like to help shape the world around you with words and ideas? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

JAY: THE TREASURE SEEKER

Do you believe in magic? Reader Jay explains how it shaped her childhood, her teen years and even her career...

Jay says:
My parents are toy collectors so I grew up in a house filled with curious objects; cabinets filled with tins robots and plastic transformers, vintage Barbie dolls and ball jointed figures. Weekends were for car boot sales, toy fairs and charity shops. We're not hoarders, just selective treasure-seekers. We rummage and find things to either sell on or to keep for ourselves. I'm a Jay bird, a member of the crow family, born to scavenge and fill my nest with shiny things. We're magpies by nature.

Jacqueline Wilson's book MIDNIGHT told the story of a girl so enchanted by fairies that she surrounded herself with illustrated fairies suspended on strings from her bedroom ceiling. As an avid reader, daydreamer and fairy-obsessed kid, I plastered my room with fairies too. I still have a bog book of Cecily Mary Barker's flower fairies that I would sit and draw my own versions of. My nana encouraged my interest in fairies and folklore, telling me stories and asking for drawings. I'd also cast spells on her so she could win at bingo on a Sunday night - much to our dismay, it never seemed to work! I made fairy rings with flowers in my gran's back garden and I imagined that my wardrobe was a portal to another realm. I was a very strange child and that hasn't changed, but it has fed into the work I make today!

The collector and the fairy queen in me have now merged and formed an alliance. I am still hunting and gathering materials as I always did, but now I am using my treasures to fabricate my own fairyland. I am currently studying for a degree in illustration at Leeds College of Art, but my practice is all about making. My passion for tactility and physical performance has pushed me to bring my illustrated characters to life in three dimensions. I use wire armatures, polystyrene and papier mache to construct the bodies of my dolls and I clothe them in garments made from old material and jewellery. After sharing my dolls online, I was asked if they were for sale... people actually wanted to buy my silly little pixies!

I now sell my 'pixie dolls' on Etsy and through a shop I work at in North Yorkshire. I love to see little fairy children get excited about seeing my dolls or perhaps receiving one that's been custom made to look just like them. All those years I spent chasing magical creatures, and now I can make them real with my own hands.

You can follow my pixies on www.facebook.com/jaystellingdesign
Instagram: @jaystellingdesign
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/JayStellingDesign
or email at jaystellingdesign@live.co.uk

Cathy says:
I love, love, LOVE these pixie dolls - and Jay's story is inspiring! It makes me want to mix up the paste and get playing with papier mache again... wow! Have YOU got a passion for something that you hope may one day become a career? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Friday, 3 March 2017

DEIRBHILE: REACH OUT

Have you ever struggled with eating issues or depression? Deirbhile shares her story...

DEIRBHILE SAYS:
Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. One in five sufferers will die, either from malnutrition or suicide. Eating disorders are NOT a diet gone wrong, a choice or a lifestyle. They are a serious psychiatric illness which in reality have very little to do with food, and I thank my lucky stars every day that my anorexia was noticed quickly and that I received the appropriate treatment. Recovery is the hardest thing I have ever done and probably ever will do, but full recovery IS possible.

Depression is still very much a part of my life and I can now accept that it probably always will be - but it no longer engulfs me and even my bad days are a million miles away from my worst days. Having depression does not make me a depressing person - I'm very, very happy. I was lucky enough to get the right treatment and find the right medication to manage my illness.

For me and for many others, eating disorders are a side affect of depression. No one just wakes up one day and decides to stop eating - it's a slow and dangerous process that can be fatal, but as we have seen, recovery is possible. Recovery is falling down and getting back up again. Recovery is learning to love your body because it contains YOU. Recovery is finding yourself and learning to try to love yourself. Recovery is FIGHTING. Fight is no exaggeration and each day was and occasionally still is an exhausting mental battle. But it's all good because I have come through it, and I've left school now and am training for my career.

If you are struggling please don't be ashamed of your illness and reach out to find help. If you are coping or in recovery, speak out and let's try to end the ridiculous stigma surrounding mental health problems. After all, it's a flaw in chemistry, NOT a flaw in character.

Cathy says:
Deirbhile is a pretty amazing and inspiring young woman, and her words are an absolute must-read for all of us. Have YOU ever struggled with mental health issues? Do you know someone who has? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

CARA: I'LL SHATTER IF MY HOPES ARE CRUSHED...

It's problem page time on DREAMCATCHER and reader Cara has a problem for Honey Tanberry to solve... will you agree with her advice?

Cara says:
Things are not good at home... my parents fight and my mum is having a very hard time. On top of that, my biggest dream seems to have crashed, which is really upsetting. I want more than anything else to go to boarding school, and have applied to one of the top ones, but the only way I could take a place would be if I got a bursary. This seems almost impossible as they are one of the top schools in the country and want only the best students. I am strong academically, but I am scared I will never be good enough. I study almost all the time but I feel like I will shatter if my hopes are crushed yet again. What can I do?

Honey says:
I remember how upsetting it is to see your parents rowing; I felt like nothing was safe any more. I can understand your impulse to apply to boarding school, where you will no longer have to see all of that - but is it the answer? Boarding school is very pressured and tough, and though I know you're not afraid of hard work, being constantly judged on your achievements may be the last thing you need right now. You've convinced yourself that only boarding school can solve your problems, just as before you told yourself that only having your biggest dream come true could make you happy. You're probably a bit of an all-or-nothing person, as I am, but I have learned to be less dramatic and life is way happier for me now, I promise. The truth is, we all have many dreams... if one is not possible, don't punish yourself or take it as a failure, adapt and move on. You may get your place at boarding school - if so, good luck and enjoy it. If not, accept that fate has other plans for you and don't turn it into a tragedy! If I could tell you just how many times things hadn't worked out for me... and there's no point in making a fuss, you have to brush yourself down and get on with it. Life's like that! Boarding school - even at the the prestigious one you mention - is not the only route to success, I promise. Talent shines through, and there are many routes to a dream. You are determined, hard working and have a strong vision of what you want, and I believe you can make a great success of your life - and have fun along the way. What are you waiting for?

Cathy says:
I agree with Honey on this - and if Cara hasn't read my book LETTERS TO CATHY, I'd recommend she does, as it is full of great tips on handling the growing up years! Do YOU agree with Honey's advice? What would YOU add? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!