Thursday 29 September 2016


Make up isn't for everyone... through choice or through necessity, some readers are going for a bare-faced look. And they're loving it!

Sophie says:
I don't think I need to wear make up... I'm happy with how I look. I've tried a few times, just to fit in with my friends, but I soon realised it just wasn't me. Now I'm happy to just be myself, perhaps with lip balm if my lips are sore or it's a cold day. I don't mind other girls wearing make up, I'd never tell them not to, but I do wish everyone could feel comfortable with their looks!

Sarah Jade says:
I would love to wear make up but I suffer from severe eczema and my face is badly affected. I'd love to cover up the eczema but it would only make things worse and trigger a reaction, so sadly it's a bare-faced look for me.

Holly says:
I only wear nail varnish really, and even then not often as I like to get my nails done by a beautician I can't often afford it. Otherwise I don't wear make up at all (unless I'm in a dance competition, where it is expected) as I don't think I need to, and I worry that sometimes it makes your skin look worse than it did to begin with. I'm more for keeping my skin in good condition rather than covering up bad skin because of wearing too much make up too often. I try to cleanse, tone and moisturise every night, too.

Hazel says:
You're so right, Holly! Nothing looks better than clear skin, and going make up free is better for your skin in the long run. I break out in spots sometimes - if I do, I try to eat really healthily (fruit, fruit, fruit!) and drink loads of water to help my skin!

Katie says:
Like Holly, I LOVE nail polish but have only ever worn face make up on stage. I'm generally not a make up person, but I'd love to experiment with special effects make up... can anyone turn me into a zombie?

Seren says:
I am lucky enough to have good skin, and I prefer to go bare-faced as I think that looks better than using lots of foundation. There is a natural glow that bare skin has that make up cannot replicate, and I plan to make the most of it while I can! I have freckles too, and I actually love them, so why would I want to cover them up? I think we should all have the choice and not judge each other on what we choose to do. My cousin has bad acne and I know she uses make up to disguise it, and in that situation I would probably do the same.

Lara says:
I don't wear make up because I want to look like ME and not some identikit model-type character. I do think make up sometimes makes people look all the same. Who says that beauty is about what the magazines say it is? I wish we were all happy in our own skins and content with the way we look! Why try to be perfect when imperfection is a part of being human?

Cathy says:
Some very interesting ideas here... what do YOU think about going bare-faced? COMMENT BELOW and have your say!

Wednesday 28 September 2016


It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Cass has a boyfriend problems. HONEY TANBERRY is here to advise... will YOU agree with her views?

Cass says:
I've been with my boyfriend for eight and a half months and for a while now he has had something on his mind... I knew, and I've asked him about it, but he'd shrug it off and say he was fine. Last week I asked straight out what was going on, and he told me he'd explain after school. He kept stalling and I was asking if it was death, illness, if he was moving away. In the end I had to go and he said he'd make a group chat and tell me that way. The group chat was with another girl, and she had posted saying 'You should have told her sooner.' It turns out they had a conversation months ago that became flirty and sexual, and he then backed off, saying he had a girlfriend, and she had been hassling him ever since. The girl is someone we both know. He feels so guilty and I think the girl is being unfair, but my friends say I'm crazy for trusting him. I'm so mixed up. What can I do?

Honey says:
I'm not impressed with this boy's cowardice in not owning up to what he'd done - there must have come a point when he knew he wouldn't be able to hide it (you both know the girl in question, after all) yet he went on lying and saying nothing was wrong. This worries me more than what he actually did. Yes, he cheated - but he did pull back and stop things from going any further because he realised he valued the relationship he had more than an online flirtation. The big concern is his ability to deceive you in order to cover his own back. In your longer email, you say you have both promised to be more open from now on, and that is vital - without honesty, this relationship is going nowhere. I sense that you still care for your boyfriend and he may well care for you, but that the opinions of those around you are against the relationship. What would I do? Well, I'm stubborn and I don't like being told what to do, so in your shoes I would probably go with my heart and give him another chance. BUT... this is not a no-strings deal. He has deceived you, and he needs to take responsibility. I'd insist he told the girl to back right off and stop spreading rumours, making it clear there will never be anything between them, and treat you so well that nobody can even start to doubt his feelings. He also needs to know that if he lies to you again or goes behind your back, he's toast. I cannot promise you that this story will have a happy ending, but at least you'll know you gave the relationship a chance. Good luck.

Cathy says:
Unexpected advice from Honey... but I can see where she is coming from! A second chance may work in this situation - but only if both partners are determined to give it their best shot. There can be no third or fourth chances. What advice would YOU give to Cass? COMMENT BELOW to share your thoughts...

Tuesday 27 September 2016


Reader Elise, aged just twelve, has written a brilliant story set back in World War Two... settle down for a gripping read!

Evacuee. It's just a label, a tag, a name they give to children like me. But here, back in London, I am finally me - Victoria Elizabeth James - again. I perch on the edge of the dirty train seat, gazing out of the window and choking on the steam as it drifts above my head like a sly snake. When the train stops, I grasp the pillowcase which holds all my belongings so tightly that my knuckles turn white.

I step off the train, pulled and pushed. A tall man with a long beard, who looks like one of the farm hands from the farm I stayed on back in Ebbw Vale, hurries past, sending me flying across the platform. My knees bleed like watery paint on a handkerchief, dyeing my white socks scarlet, but I ignore the pain. I need to get home, see my family. I sprint forward until my shins hurt and I gasp from exhaustion. Suddenly, a sound screeches through the air. What is it? It has haunted my dreams ever since the war began, even when I was tucked up safely in my bed in Ebbw Vale.

The air raid siren. It screams to warn us, warn us that the Germans are about to bomb us, but I can't stop because the Heinkels are getting closer to London. They turn the sky from turquoise to grey: they paint the clouds charcoal, unlike the soft wisps that were swimming through the sky when I arrived. I dash into an old alleyway near my house because explosions are erupting, too close for comfort. I think they are getting nearer.

I struggle to my feet in a daze after the second shriek, the all clear, has ceased. Puzzled, I wander into the street. My worst fears materialise as I survey the scene. I can taste the smoke and tears on my tongue, smell the unforgettable stench of death. I hear cries and wails, fee my stomach twist. Corpses are littering the streets. Baker Street, Waterloo, Trafalgar Square, even Downing Street... bodies are everywhere. This has to be the biggest bombing raid London has ever seen.

I turn into my street - or what used to be my street. My heart skips a beat as I recognise some figures.
My mum, my older siblings, my neighbours, my friends...

My world.

Cathy says:
Whoa... a very powerful piece of writing. Awesome stuff, Elise! Would YOU like to see more fiction on DREAMCATCHER? It's up to you... COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday 24 September 2016


Back to school means new uniforms, new styles and looks... and those all-important new school shoes. What are your school shoes like?

Hollie says:
I used to have a pair of school patent brogues that became widely known amongst my friends as 'the lesbian tap dancing shoes'. They had a wooden type sole and so I had many painful accidents when I tried to walk on the shiny floor in our new sports hall! On the bright side, I soon got hardened to my peers (including some sneaky Sixth formers) laughing at me! I think I carried off the look well, though. I have been out of school for a little while but I am planning on going to college at some point in the fairly near future, and when I do (eeek!) these will deffo be the shoes I wear... college doesn't have uniform rules, so I might even get away with the rainbow tights... ;o)

Jodie says:
My school shoes are flat black boots... I've actually been wearing them in the holidays too, with bare legs, except on the hottest days when I gave in and wore sandals. But I love the boots-and-bare-legs look, and now it's getting cooler I'm teaming leggings with the boots. They are very soft and comfy and they were cheap too, as they are not real leather. Although they are not brand new for school, I don't care because I love them, and I have a feeling I will be wearing them until they fall apart. I'm in Year Ten now and they are not too strict on footwear, which is good, as I am sick of the usual school shoe stuff!

Charlotte says:
Oh, I love my school shoes! They are Doc Martens - only because they are the only pair of shoes I haven't managed to break! Well, I broke the buckle on one pair during drama, but this pair are fine! Plus, they are super comfy. I know three other people with the same shoes as me, but I pull them off the best! They're great, and I admit i wear them outside of school as well. They are not exactly delicate shoes, and once or twice I have tripped over in them, but then I am just super clumsy. Not the fault of the shoes!

Katie says:
My school shoes are from JERSEY... which is significant because I actually live in New Zealand, and we bought them when we were on holiday there. I was born in Jersey, so that is another cool connection! They are Clarks brand and have velcro fastening and hearts on the soles, which is great, and they are very shiny and businesslike, but actually they are really boring compared to my other shoes. That's the trouble with school shoes, isn't it? They're not really allowed to be exciting. Although... heart-embellished footprints... ;o)

Cathy says:
All of these shoes are much, much cooler than the horrible black lace-ups I had to wear at secondary school. It wasn't that the uniform rules were super-strict, more that they were cheap and hardwearing, and my mum needed them to last all year. **Sobs.** Are YOUR school shoes cool? Which of these four pairs would YOU pick? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday 23 September 2016


Blogger Megan has some top tips for making your blog look great with some neat photography tips... whether you have a blog or not, her advice will make sure your pics are the best they can be!

Megan says:
Do you love the writing aspect of blogging but struggle when it comes to photography? If you answered yes, then don't worry! It's not so hard to create fun, eye-catching photos to accompany your wonderful writing. It's worth improving your photography because articles/ blog posts with images get 94% more views than those without! Let's get started...

If you're taking a photo of an object rather than some scenery, create an interesting background for the photo. this will add interest and perfectly border the item you're showcasing! Try interesting gift wrap from a card shop or drape a charity shop scarf behind your main object... you can ransack the family wardrobes for background fabrics and you might just find something unique!

If you're focusing on one item that you are reviewing, try not to put too many random items around it - this will only distract and confuse readers. They won't know what to look at! There's no need to get rid of the cool little details, but do give the main focus a bit of room! It doesn't have to be complicated.

Not every photo you take has to have a purpose. I often forget this and just take pictures when I need one for a post, but taking a few photos every week means you're getting lots of practice and you will get better with time! You might even want to join a photography club in your area or school for a little extra guidance!

Lighting helps to bring life to your photos and makes sure everything is clear. Try to use natural light whenever possible to avoid photos looking fake - choose the best part of the day to take your photos so that it's nice and bright. If your photo still looks a little dull, you can fix it at the editing stage by turning up the brightness, exposure and/or vibrancy.

If you want your photos to stand out then editing is key! If you're a beginner, use the simple edits built into your phone or on free apps, and work your way up to the special editing websites and software. I love using PicMonkey because even the free version has lots of options - it's fun to experiment with while you're getting to know the features!

Hopefully my five photography tips for bloggers can help you to create cool photos for your blog... I wish you the bets of luck perfecting your skills. Let me know how it goes!

Cathy says:
I love this! I am a bit of an Instagram addict, and I find that those filters and borders make almost any pic look better, but Megan's tips are excellent! Are YOU good with a camera? COMMENT BELOW to share your own tips!

Wednesday 21 September 2016


Do you love books... and libraries? You could be in the running for a fab award to celebrate the achievements of student school librarians!

Cathy says:
Are you crazy about books? Do you help out in your school library? Are you a vital part of helping to keep it running, or have you been helped by an older pupil librarian who welcomed you to the library and helped you find your way around? This award is looking for reliable, enthusiastic and hardworking pupil librarians...  they could be nominated for a brilliant award which celebrates school libraries and the kids who love them! The award is supported by the lovely AUTHORS ALOUD UK (who just happen to arrange my tours... they're fab!) and will be judged by a panel of leading figures from world of children's books and school library community.

Why not get your school involved? Tell your school librarian about the award - nominations are open NOW and you can find out more about the awards and how to enter HERE.

And if your school doesn't have pupil librarians yet... it's about time it did! Pupil librarian can help bring a library to life and be a lifeline between students and the adult librarian. Lots of amazing ideas - for displays, events, reading groups and celebrations - come to life when there are student librarians around! I love this award, so if your school librarian doesn't know about it yet, please tell her/him... one day soon, it could be YOU in the finals!

Awesome artwork by Children's Laureate Chris Riddell.

I'd love to know more about YOUR school library... COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday 20 September 2016


It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Serena is struggling with a friendship issue... can Honey Tanberry help? 

Serena says:
I've recently started secondary school with friends from my primary. In primary they were a bit mean, but now they are worse than ever. They push me around and call me names because I am English and we live in Scotland, and make jokes about how I look. It hurst so much and I want it to stop. One girl is nice when she's away from the group, but when she's with them she's mean too, as if she's trying to impress them.

Honey says:
Ouch. I've had my fair share of hanging round with mean girls, and I'm done with it - never again. Mean friends are usually very insecure and pick on others to make themselves feel better... pretty sad, really. As you've seen, some of the group may be uncomfortable with the mean stuff, but will still join in to stay a part of the group. You can try talking to this girl alone and seeing how she feels about it, but when it comes to the crunch she may not have the courage to step away from the mean girls. You, though, have no choice. If you stick with these girls they will destroy your self esteem. At the start of secondary, you have a perfect opportunity to make new friends and find people you can genuinely trust. Be brave, and step away from these bullies. You are nobody's doormat.

Cathy says:
Strong advice from Honey, but wise, I think. Have YOU ever had to handle low-level bullies or mean girls? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!


Reader Claire shares a fab recipe for vegetable pie - perfect when veggie friends are calling round, or when you want a healthy, warming dinner!

Claire says:
For this recipe I used ready-made short crust pastry to make things faster and easier. Take the pastry out of its wrapping and roll out on a cool, clean surface dusted with flour. A little flour sprinkled on the rolling pin can help to stop it from sticking to the pastry, too. Grease a pie dish with butter or veggie spread and then lower the pastry into the dish, press down and trim. Set to one side while you prepare the sauce and filling. (Note: this pie is open topped!)

For the filling:
2 florets broccoli, 1 large carrot, 100g garden peas, 100g sweetcorn, 1 potato.
Slice carrot into small circles; chop potato into small cubes; cut broccoli into small pieces. Boil until cooked. Peas and sweetcorn can be used straight from a tin, but of you use frozen cook briefly until tender. Once all the veggies are done, use a potato masher to mash them into a smoothish paste and spoon this into the pastry.

For the sauce:
200g mature cheddar cheese
1 small cup of flour
28g butter
100ml milk
Place the butter in a pan on a low heat until melted; add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon to form a paste, then add the milk, stirring constantly. Add the cheese and keep stirring until the sauce is smooth, thick and creamy. Spoon into the pie dish and bake at 180 degrees centigrade or gas mark 4 for 30 minutes, or until the pie is piping hot and golden brown on top, Serve with a crisp green salad.

Cathy says:
This sounds lovely... I will definitely be trying it out! Do YOU have a cool recipe to share on DREAMCATCHER? Tell me more in a COMMENT BELOW!

Monday 19 September 2016


Reader Millie gives her verdict on the new film SWALLOWS & AMAZONS... will it be a must-see for YOU?

Millie says:
A couple of weeks ago I went to see the film SWALLOWS & AMAZONS with my mum and younger brother. I have read the book and my brother has read most of the series, so we knew we would enjoy it. My mum remembers seeing the original film so she wanted to see this one as well, to see if it was as good. We don't go to the cinema all that much so we made it an occasion with popcorn and drinks, and we had good seats. My first comment is that the film looked amazing. The characters were convincing and I especially liked the little brother, Roger, who was very cute and funny, and the Amazon girls who were brilliant. The settings were beautiful, if you have ever been to the Lake District you will know what I mean, and because it was set in the past (the 1930s I think) it had an air of mystery and romance that you don't get with things set in the present day. 

 One thing that bothered me was a change in the plot. The film had a spy sub-plot that isn't in the book, which confused me a bit, but I got to like it and it did make the ending of the film very dramatic and exciting. Afterwards Mum told me the author Arthur Ransome had been a journalist in Russia and that the writer/spy character was based on him. That was quite clever! My only complaint was that I didn't like the character John so much in the film, he was very bossy and a bit know-it-all which he isn't really in the book, and there were some rows and fights between the characters in the film that don't happen in the book. My brother said that made it more realistic though, and it wasn't really a problem just a thing I noticed. I also didn't like that they changed the plot so that the kids lost their box of food within a few minutes of setting sail, because it made them look silly and I think in the book they were actually very brave and clever and independent. But it didn't spoil it for me!

Overall, I loved this film so much I would have liked to be in it... maybe I'd have played one of the Amazon sisters! I loved the book but the film has made me determined to learn to sail and definitely pushed me to be more adventurous in my life dreams. My mum also liked the film even though it was different to the one she'd seen when she was young, which she said was closer to the book. My brother loved it too. Overall, we rated SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS four stars out of five! It is not in the cinemas around here any more but well worth getting on DVD or netflix when it is available for a lovely, old-fashioned, feelgood family movie.

Cathy says:
I read all of the Arthur Ransome SWALLOWS & AMAZONS series when I was growing up, and absolutely loved them! I too saw the original film and I watched the new one recently too... my review was a big thumbs up too, so it's good to know that Millie agrees! Have YOU seen an amazing film this summer? COMMENT BELOW to have your say or email/message me on the FB fanpage if you'd like to review a new film release!

Saturday 17 September 2016


Reader Nadia tells us how her little sister came through a serious illness to find she had lost her hearing... and how she learned to cope.

Nadia says:
About two years ago, not long before my little sister's sixth birthday, Rosa got very ill with meningitis. It was terrifying - she had a high fever and could barely stay awake. Mum took her to the hospital, and we were all so scared; at one point I thought Rosa would fall asleep and never wake up. I would sit with my mum beside her bed as all these doctors and nurses came in and out, their faces set and never smiling. We seemed to spend a lot of time drinking hospital coffee and drinks from the machine, waiting around for news, feeling scared. I particularly remember one day when Rosa was asleep and a nurse came in with a needle. Two other nurses arrived and I was horrified when I saw them stick the needle right in Rosa's back. She woke up but she didn't scream... she just cried silently and held onto Mum's hand.

One day, when I arrived at the hospital with my elder brother, we found Mum sitting outside Rosa's room crying. I remember feeling scared stiff, as though my heart had stopped. The sun was shining and it just didn't seem possible something bad had happened. I looked into Rosa's room, fearing the worst, but my little sister was sleeping peacefully. I asked Mum what was wrong and that's when she told us that Rosa would probably never hear again. The worst part was, that was the day of Rosa's sixth birthday.

Now my little sister is eight and she acts as though nothing is wrong. Mum has taken her from one doctor to another, but none of them have offered any hope that Rosa will hear again. Rosa doesn't mind - she is now practically fluent in sign language, which I am so proud of. We have an auntie who is a teacher for the deaf and she has become Rosa's personal home-schooler. As for me, I still worry about my little sister sometimes, but she knows that she can come and talk to me whenever she needs to. Right now she is in the middle of learning to lip read, and she is doing really well. The best thing is, the other day she came up to me and said in a clear voice, 'When I grow up I am going to become a horse riding teacher for people like me.' I was filled with pride not just because Rosa had found something she wanted to do in life, but also because she didn't see herself as wrong or different in any way. She's just Rosa, and she's awesome!

Illustration by Cathy Cassidy

Cathy says:
I love this amazing post... Nadia shows that when one person in a family goes through a tough time, everyone else goes through it too. Have YOU ever had to support a friend or a family member through illness or difficulty? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!


Readers share their fave comfort food treats... could it be love at first bite?

Deborah says:
For me it has to be white chocolate... there's just something so rich but so light about it. It calms me down whenever I feel tense.

Kym says: 
Oreo chocolate because it contains both Oreos and chocolate - can't get much better than that, really! Although, I do have a thing for cakes with fruit...

Natasha says:
I agree with Kym - Oreo chocolate is the best!

Valerie says:
A delicious chocolate bar and a cup of coffee!

Ivana says:
A bunch of chocolates, lollipops, cheesecake... cheesecake mostly. I like everything about it!

Jessie says: 
My all time favourite food is quiche Lorraine, I've loved it all my life. I love the smooth texture and the cheese and bacon combination works so well!

Sara says:
Fish and chips! Nothing beats the smell - and the taste - of chipshop chips, wrapped in paper and drenched in salt and vinegar. We don't have if often but it's a family tradition for us if there's something family-ish to celebrate!

Hollie says:
For me it has to be nachos... with buckets of cheese and lashings of salsa, guacamole and sour cream. I love the heat of the melted cheese with the cool sensation of the cream!

Katie says:
You can't go wrong with cake from the supermarket, or a cheeky takeaway. I've never been able to decide whether I am a sweet tooth or a savoury. My FAVOURITE foods ever are Mexican and pizza. Definite comfort foods right there!

Soumia says:
Chocolate... bananas... mushroom pizza... and that kind of cheese that comes in squared layers!

Chantal says:
I like Turkish Delight, the chocolate kind is nice but ideally the sort without chocolate that comes from Turkey or the Middle East. It's sweet but not too sweet, dusted in sugar and just so beautiful. I first read about it in the Narnia books and it's as good as it sounds!

Ella says:
Anything peanut buttery because it reminds me of my favourite place on earth (Florida) and it also tastes amazing!

Ali says:
I have always loved curry - all curries - but yesterday I discovered a Massaman curry from Thailand which isn't spicy but is very rich and has peanuts in the sauce... a huge recommend! I'm also a sucker for pastry, especially if it's filled with fruit and has a soggy bottom!

Cassia says: 
I love anything sweet, but hot chocolate is my favourite!

Cathy says:
I have to say chocolate, really, don't I? No contest! What is YOUR fave comfort food? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!

Friday 16 September 2016


Our fashion and history expert Jess takes a look at the Elizabethan era... when fashion followed the lead of one very powerful woman, Queen Elizabeth 1st...

Jess says:
You can see from this early portrait of Elizabeth as a teenager in the early Tudor period just how much fashions changed once she became queen! The opulence and luxury of fashion for the wealthy stepped up to a whole new level... Elizabeth was a queen who liked to show her power and stature in the way she dressed. Compare this portrait of Elizabeth in 1546 to the portrait below, painted in the late 1500s and you will see how the style has changed. Instead of the hair neatly pulled back from the face, plaited and pinned up and hidden under a jewelled hood, in the second image the hair itself is the decoration, studded with pearls and jewels and feathers, with hairpieces added to pad the hair out. The hint of lace showing along the neckline in the first picture is, by the late 1500s, a huge and dramatic starched lace ruff. The draped pearl necklace in the first image is now six or seven long, heavy strands of pearls. The sleeves are now huge, padded and jewelled, and the over-sleeves have morphed into a cape. The neat nipped-in bodice is now a sharp triangle shape, the tiny waist hauled in with lots of tight lacing, a distorted and dramatic shape. As for the skirt, gone is the triangle shape in favour of a wide padded underskirt and a dark overskirt, both heavy with embroidery and studded with jewels. The viewer is left in no doubt that this is a queen who really does have the world at her fingertips.

Although only the queen could go to such extremes with this fashion, all women copied the style. Cage-like contraptions were strapped on beneath the skirts to support the new, wider shape and ruffs and lace cuffs were the order of the day. The queen's hair was red, and suddenly red hair was fashionable; women used dye made of saffron, celandine, cumin seed and oil to achieve a red-blonde colour. Urine was another substance used as a bleach. As Elizabeth's hair faded and thinned (due to the frizzed effect she favoured, achieved with the use of hot irons) the queen began to use wigs and hair pieces to achieve the look she wanted. She is said to have owned more than eighty wigs. Elizabeth also used make up to perfect her pale complexion. A snow white skin was valued as beautiful because it signified wealth and privilege; ordinary women were expected to work outside and so became tanned. In those days, a tan was the opposite of cool. Some women went to great lengths to achieve the pale look, including allowing themselves to be 'bled' by leeches. Worse still was the popularity of a make up called 'ceruse', made from white lead and vinegar, which was highly poisonous. Mixtures made of sulphur, alum or tin ash were also used, and also very dangerous. Red lips and cheeks were achieved with the help of cochineal dye, made from crushed beetles. Belladonna (another poison) was used to make eyes look large and bright. All these dangerous materials caused more trouble than they solved, and when skin lesions, blemishes and wrinkles appeared honey, lemon juice or rosewater might be used to soothe the skin... or highly dangerous mercury might be used.

Although the Elizabethan era was a great one for England, and important because it was the first time England had been ruled by a woman alone for any length of time. Elizabeth was highly educated and cultured, but although she wielded the power all of her advisors were men and women in Britain still had little or no freedom. Women were not seen as equal to men and their lives were bound by child bearing. The average Elizabethan woman gave birth to a child every two years, but families were not always large as many children died in childbirth or from sickness or disease in early childhood. In spite of the amazing dresses, I don't think I would have liked to be a young woman in this era. For one thing, I would have been tempted to try out these early forms of make up and would have probably done myself a lot of harm in the process. I think I'm very grateful for modern cosmetics... and thankful to the pioneers of the Elizabethan era for pushing back the beauty boundaries!

Would you like to know more about Queen Elizabeth 1st? Would you like to see more of the lush clothes and gowns? Two DVDs are well worth a watch... ELIZABETH and its sequel, ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN YEARS. Although they tweak history a little bit, they tell the amazing story of one of England's strongest and most iconic monarchs... and how cool that she just happened to be a woman!

Cathy says:
Is anyone else as hooked on Jess's series as I am? I can't wait to see what comes next. I knew a little about Elizabethan make up but urine as hair bleach? White lead as foundation? Nooo!!! What lengths would YOU have gone to in the name of fashion? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday 15 September 2016


What are your best memories of summer? Readers share their favourite moments from the holidays... I can feel that sunshine now!

Chloe says:
There are lots of fields near where I live up here in sunny Scotland, and I took this photo one day when we were clowning around on the haybales. When I look at this, it's just like being back there again! The pic reminds me of Coco a bit, too... there's even an old gypsy caravan in the background!

Kym says:
My best summer memory was my birthday... I was overwhelmed with the amount of friends who came together to make sure I enjoyed it. Some chipped in with cake making and there were some very thoughtful pressies. It was a brilliant night.

Katie says: 
Best bits of the summer? Falling in love with CC books all over again, and going to the little area library that looks like a bright, sunny beach shack!

Manda says:
The highlight was definitely meeting my online best friend in real life for the first time and spending time with him... incredible. And earlier in the summer I got to spend two amazing days with people I love, performing in my school's dance show - lots of dances, quick changes and the chance to perform one of my favourite musical theatre songs as a solo. There was a week at dance summer school and a week with Youth Music Theatre UK creating original music, making new friends and learning loads of new techniques. It was quite a summer!

Valerie says:
Sun, sand and Marley, our lovely labrador... camping out near the coast and meeting up with friends, late nights, sleeping under the stars, early mornings, shell collecting, pickibg wild flowers, reading a few good books. Missing my summer!

Trisha says:
Everything about this summer was memorable. I split up with a controlling boyfriend, found the courage to get help of anxiety and depression and met the kindest, most gentle partner ever. I think this has been my best summer ever.

Photo of haybale by reader Chloe... thank you!

Cathy says:
Lots of little things make up my best summer memories... the sand under my feet on our first overseas holiday in four years... sunshine... the coast... hugs from friends... firepit nights with music and singing. What are YOUR best memories of this summer? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday 14 September 2016


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

Gillian says:
I am worried about my mum. She seems tired all the time and sleeps lots, even in the day. Sometimes she doesn't brush her hair or change her clothes, and she can be very grumpy which means I don't bring my friends home anymore. I never know what will make her cross or what might upset her and start her crying. She won't talk to me about it, but there is no reason I can think of why she would act like this. She has missed a lot of work in the past few weeks and I am scared she might lose her job. I think something is badly wrong but I don't know what or what to do.

Summer says:
You're right, something is wrong. I am no medical expert, but it may be that your mum has depression... this isn't always a reaction to an event but perhaps just a chemical imbalance that has caused her mood to dip. Whether the problem is this or something else, the doctor should be her first port of call. As she won't talk to you about what is going on, call in the help of an aunt, a gran, a family friend or neighbour to help persuade her - this will take some of the pressure off you also. With a problem like this, adult support is needed... you cannot cope alone. With meds and perhaps counselling, your mum can come through this low patch and regain her confidence again. Speak out and find some help for her - and for yourself.

Cathy says:
Good advice... would YOU add anything more to it? COMMENT BELOW with your advice for Gillian!

Tuesday 13 September 2016


What's it like to start university? Reader Soumia shares her experiences of starting uni in her home country of Algeria...

Soumia says:
I got my BAC one year ago, the exam Algerian students take at the end of high school's third year to graduate and become a college student. I'd studied very hard to succeed, and when I passed it was one of the happiest moments of my life; my parents were proud and so were my siblings. However, all the happiness turned to anxiety when I got my 'list of choices'. Everyone who passes BAC gets ten choices of subject he/she can major in, and they must be ranked from the most to the least wanted. Few people are lucky enough to have their first choice accepted.

My list was satisfying... foreign languages, history, philosophy... but none of the other choices could tempt me. My first choice, no-questions-asked, was English. It has been my dream since middle school to major in English and become an author. Ten days later I went to check the results, thousands of scenarios playing in my head. I got my first choice, English, and college was about to start. I couldn't stop imagining how it would be... big lecture theatres instead of classrooms, less rules, friendly teachers...

In reality, it was even better. The university was so huge I had to follow my friend like a shadow so as not to get lost, but most of the teachers were friendly and I loved everything about the English department. The modules we studied were great, so were the students, and I loved the EDB-Boat, a group of Master students who organise parties, events and plays. Not everything I liked was concrete - I also loved being one step closer to making my dreams come true. I got the best grade in my writing module which boosted my confidence, and I loved meeting my old best friends for lunch. I know I will never forget these days and I will try my best to make sure that the rest of my time here is every bit as wonderful!

Cathy says:
I love Soumia's enthusiasm... I loved college too, especially after a less than happy secondary school experience. Do YOU dream of going to college or uni? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday 11 September 2016


Reader Marie tells us about the heart-breaking letter she wrote to her dad after a family split... but didn't have the courage to send.

Marie says:
Dear Dad,
I miss you. I thought you should know that, even though you clearly don't miss me. If you did, you'd call or email or come up to see me sometimes, even if it did involve a long journey by car. It was your choice to move away, your choice to leave Mum and me and start a new family.

I have a new little half brother now, and I only know that because Nan has told me, and showed me a picture. You and S (your new girlfriend) look so happy, the new baby in your arms. A perfect family. Mum and me must have been very imperfect, because you seem to have forgotten we ever existed. Not a card on my birthday, nor at Christmas... does it make you feel better, pretending you don't have a daughter? I hope so. I hope at least one of us is happy.

I'm not happy, Dad, and nor is Mum. She is working too hard, not eating properly. Sometimes at night I hear her crying. She misses you, like I do, but I wish we didn't. I wish we could forget and move on as easily as you have. We still see Nan, even though you told her you'd prefer it if she cut off all contact. She didn't do that because she's a good person, better than you, Dad. She doesn't walk away from her own flesh and blood. She has never made me feel second best, never made Mum feel that she did anything wrong. You were the one who wrecked it all, Dad. You met someone new and walked away from us as if we didn't matter at all. I am writing this letter because I think you need to know that I miss you, but that I think we are better off without you. I used to think you were amazing, my hero, but I don't think those things now. I am ashamed of you, and one day soon I hope I won't miss you at all because you don't deserve my tears.

I want to send you this letter, Dad. I want you to know how much you've hurt us all, me, Mum, even Nan. I want you to understand the damage you've done. I won't post this letter though, because a part of me is scared it would push you even further away. I'll burn it, destroy it. And there's another thing too, of course... I don't know your address. Thanks for that, Dad. It's good to know how much I mean to you. It's good though, really, because if I posted this letter I know you would ignore it. You wouldn't care, wouldn't reply. No, Dad, you don't deserve my tears at all.

Fabulous photo by talented reader Khiana; many thanks!

Cathy says:
Marie's letter is heartbreaking. A family split doesn't have to end this way, but often there is a lot of hurt all round. Have YOU ever been let down badly by someone who was supposed to love you? COMMENT BELOW and have your say...

Saturday 10 September 2016


Reader Deborah tells us what it's like to start at Sixth Form... would YOU know what to expect?

Deborah says:
I chose to do my A levels in a different school. I did this mostly because I wanted a fresh start in a new place and I felt like the school I applied to would be able to give me everything I needed to succeed. During the time when applications were first taking place, I was too busy with GCSEs to apply. Once I got my results, however, I was able to go ahead and apply and I was interviewed and allowed to enrol.

The first day of school was actually a team building trip to central London! We engaged in a treasure hunt and explored several of London's historical areas. I was able to meet my form tutor and the students in my form, who were all very friendly and welcoming. There were only two of us who were new to the school, so I made quite a few friends that day! On Induction Day, we were called to an assembly where they talked about rules and the things that were going to happen in Sixth Form. We took photos for our passes and I was able to change one of my courses to Creative Writing (a subject I only discovered after I applied!). I also got to catch up with my new friends and make a few more.

If you are starting Sixth Form in a new school or college, remember to be yourself when meeting new people. You'd be surprised to find that there will be people who are like you and have the same - or similar - interests and dreams. You are all there for the same purpose, too... to be successful!

Cathy says:
I love Deborah's blog - and wish her all the luck in the world at her new Sixth Form! Do YOU plan to study at Sixth Form? Or, if you already do or already have, do you have any advice to share with DREAMCATCHER readers? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday 8 September 2016


Reader Jess continues our series on the history of fashion with a sneaky peek at Tudor times... will YOU take a few style tips from Tudor beauty Anne Boleyn?

Jess says:
Imagine you are at the court of Henry VIII, the newest lady in waiting for Henry's new wife, Anne Boleyn... helping her to dress each day. Anne Boleyn, right, was the Tudor courtier who won the king's love, causing him to get rid of his first wife against the wishes of the church and declare himself as head of the newly created Church of England. What was so special about Anne? She was clever, and had spent time in France where she had picked up French fashions and manners. So... as lady in waiting, you would get Anne up and help her to wash, change her night shift and dress her in a day shift/chemise and then a coloured petticoat or under dress which was often starched or stiffened to make it stand out, or even padded. Next the over skirt would be put on, and then the corset-like top part of the dress, which would have had some boning to enhance the wearer's shape. Sleeves and under-sleeves were separate and were laced onto the dress, and then stockings, shoes, hood and jewellery would be added.

The skirt shape was triangular, often divided at the front with a triangle of the under-dress or petticoat, in a contrasting colour, a part of the design. The bodice of the gown was tight, an effect achieved by lacing, and the neckline was wide and square, showing much more skin than had been permitted a century earlier. The edges of the chemise were sometimes visible along the neckline, just as lace-trimmed frilled cuffs were often visible beneath the sleeves. Tudor sleeves were wide and fancy, becoming more ornate as time went on, with split sleeves that showed puffs of the under chemise and draped and hanging over-sleeves, as in the portrait of Jane Seymour, left. Jane was Henry VIII's third queen, once he had tired of Anne Boleyn and sent her to her death. While Anne had introduced the 'French hood', as seen in her portrait at the top of the page, Jane Seymour made the earlier 'gable hood' fashionable again. Although Jane Seymour kept the king's favour, her reign was short, as she died soon after giving birth to a son in 1537.

Henry's next queen, Anne of Cleves, shown right, brought a different style to the court... her elaborate hood and high waisted gown were typical of the German court, for Anne was a princess from Europe. Henry was not happy with his new wife and had the marriage annulled. By this point he was very overweight, ageing and unwell, and his bulk shows clearly in the men's style of the day which favoured a very square outline with padded doublets, jackets and breeches. In spite of his failing looks and health, Henry VIII had two further queens, Katherine Howard, a girl of only sixteen who did not keep the king's favour and was beheaded; and Catherine Parr, who outlived him. So... I am not sure I would have liked being a lady in waiting at the court of King Henry VIII after all. Far too many beheadings, too much intrigue and quite a bit of danger for any young woman. I do like the clothes, though!

To get a sense of what the costumes may have looked like, try watching the DVD THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL about Anne Boleyn and her sister, or LADY JANE about the 'nine days queen' Jane Grey who reigned briefly after the death of Henry's son, Edward VI. WOLF HALL also looks at the reign of Henry VIII and the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour. All three films show some gorgeous costumes.

Cathy says:
I am loving this DREAMCATCHER series... like Jess, I love history and the Tudor period is full of intrigue - and awesome fashions! Would YOU have risked it as a courtier at the court of King Henry? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday 7 September 2016


It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Josie has a problem for Skye Tanberry... will YOU agree with her advice?

Josie says:
I have been back at school for less than a week and already I am massively depressed. My friends are acting really weirdly. They are not blanking me exactly but acting very cool and I get the impression they are talking about me behind my back and laughing at me. When I try to talk to them or join in with something, they just clam up and look at me like I'm something pathetic and sad. I don't know what I have done wrong. We are a group of six and I haven't seen them really since the start of the holidays as we all had holidays at different times. I did see one girl, Lucy, and she seemed fine, the same as ever. She is the only one who looks a bit uncomfortable now about what is happening. What can I do? We have been a group for more than a year and I dread being pushed out, I have tried so hard to fit in.

Skye says:
I think you need to talk to Lucy alone and find out what exactly is going on. She may feel uncomfortable, but you need to know what's happening here and she can help by telling you the truth. Although the group are acting as if you've done something wrong, this is almost certainly not about anything you have or have not done, and more about the group itself. There seems to be quite a mean streak running through these girls, and their could shoulder treatment is verging on the cruel. You say you've tried very hard to fit in... but have you tried being yourself? Trying less hard? You could start right now by being honest and explaining how bad you are feeling because of their mean behaviour. This may not change anything, but it would be a show of strength and honesty and you'd feel like you'd stood up for yourself a little. You dread being 'pushed out' but what is the worst that could happen? You may be alone for a short time, but you would find new friends, hopefully ones you can trust more. Friendship is not about playing games and making people feel bad, it is about loyalty and support and understanding. If these girls can't offer that, you are better off without them.

Cathy says:
Straight-talking advice from Skye... do YOU agree with her comments? Would you add any wise words of your own? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday 5 September 2016


Our US columnist Arianna shares some wise words on the back to school blues... and how to make this year your best ever!

Arianna says:
Going back to school is exhilarating and unnerving all at the same time. It's full of an equal number of pros and cons no matter how you seem to look at it. You may be the bright-eyed new kid or the one who's had the same classmates since kindergarten, but whichever you are - or even if you're somewhere in between - you have the chance to start another year, to begin anew.

You have pressure to either show more maturity, brains or pretty locks of hair... but you're also dying to show off those new shoes or dreading how people may react to your new glasses. The thing is, you shouldn't care what people think, and I know it's one thing to say it and another to do it, but it's true. You don't necessarily need to be prepared mentally of physically to go back to school, but you do need to assure yourself you can get through it, no matter what. If you have read the CC book SCARLETT you will know that expecting the worst can work out badly. SCARLETT was shipped off to her dad's and pushed into a new school environment: on her first day, her attitude was anything but what it should be. By the end of the book she realizes this, but it takes her a long and twisting journey to figure it out!

Anyhow, for us, for you, it doesn't have to be that way. You can be like Anya from ANGEL CAKE who left everything she knew yet managed to push aside the negativity and doubt. She was scared but excited to move to a new country and start a new life, even though the reality of it is tough and challenging... and that fresh start led her to an enchanted ending.

If you're scared about returning to the hallowed halls of your school, I can't blame you. I am about to walk into my sophomore year of high school with a purple brace and a reputation built up from the year before. I have no idea what to expect. I could lose friends, gain friends, pursue a new crush... it's an adventure, but one that is full of risks. They are risks I am willing to take, and I am sure you will be too!

Good luck... I'll be back soon with a new post for you!

Cathy says:
What are YOUR worries about going back to school? What are your goals for the new term? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Friday 2 September 2016


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

VIRGO: 24 Aug - 23 Sept
You are hungry for new experiences and adventures right now... give yourself a chance to try new things by signing up for an after school class, a sports club or even a community project. You will shine!

LIBRA: 24 Sept - 23 Oct
You're in the limelight right now... a bit of a magnet for friends and classmates, who are seeing the real you for a change. This is a bit of a life lesson - believe in yourself, be true to yourself, and others will respect you for it.

SCORPIO: 24 Oct - 22 Nov
Feeling like old friends are drifting a little? Widen your circle. Every existing friend you have will have more mates you don't yet know - and you could have lots in common. Organise a big group trip to the ice rink or swimming pool and ask everyone to bring someone the others don\t yet know!

SAGITTARIUS: 23 Nov - 21 Dec
You're running round in circles getting nothing done... time to put a lid on the anxiety and focus on doing one thing at a time. You'll soon start chipping tasks off that to-do list. Get organised and anything is possible!

CAPRICORN: 22 Dec - 20 Jan
This month holds a big surprise for you... a blast from the past or an uncanny coincidence. The past has something to tell you, that's for sure... so enjoy the nostalgia but be sure to learn from the twists of fate too!

AQUARIUS: 21 Jan - 19 Feb
Ouch... you've been a little too extravagant lately and it's time to pull in the purse strings. Time to get your finances under control... or else launch a plan to make your fortune! Car washing, dog walking or babysitting are all things you'd do well at.

PISCES: 20 Feb - 20 Mar
Have you had some friendship issues lately? It could be that you're picking the wrong people, or perhaps that you are giving out the wrong signals. Focus on being the kind of friend you'd like to have - loyal, fun, kind and caring. Sounds crazy, but it works!

ARIES: 21 Mar - 20 Apr
Life has lots of choices for you right now... be honest about what you want, because the opportunity to choose new paths and take new chances is very strong this month. Think about what you want and make the right decisions!

TAURUS: 21 Apr - 21 May
Summer hasn't been quite as light and easy as you may have wished - but the stars are lined up perfectly for you to let go of any stress and enjoy yourself. Going back to school/ college will revitalise your social life and help you lighten up!

GEMINI: 22 May - 21 Jun
Decisions, decisions... be careful of them this month! Always a little bit flighty, you're kind of all over the place in September... and your ever changing thoughts and plans may hurt someone close to you. Keep calm and coast for a while... October brings greater certainty.

CANCER: 22 Jun - 23 Jul
You're in full creative mode this month... full of ideas and inspirations. It's a great time to make big changes, perhaps re-designing your room or letting your fashion flair go wild. Whatever you try, others will admire your originality!

LEO: 24 Jul - 23 Aug
You've had a rocky time recently, but you're finding your feet again... and seeking peace and inspiration in nature. As long as you take time out to refuel, you could be at the start of a hugely creative and productive few months. Go for it!

Cathy says:
Yikes... my horoscope says I'm all over the place right now, and there's certainly a grain of truth in that! Does YOUR star sign ring true this month? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!


Reader Emily, aged ten, explains how a Cathy Cassidy book inspired her to raise money for a refugee charity... Emily says: The Cathy Cassidy...