“From the start I knew I wanted to make it amazing” 

Carpenter Simon Clissold talks about how he helped make Pause Cat Café a perfect kitty sanctuary.

When Simon first saw the café it was nothing but a “shell of bricks” and he knew it was going to be a mammoth job. As well as standard renovation, there was a lot of work to be done structurally, in order to meet the health and safety regulations around keeping animals in areas where food is served.

A former boat-builder and owner of Scallywags, a local floor restoration company, Simon has a passion for working with reclaimed wood. He got creative with leftover timber and always aimed to get the most out of his materials. He is most proud of the café’s fascia, which he crafted out of old floorboards. Rather than using expensive cedar wood – the original plan – the reclaimed wood cost him just £150.

Simon standing outside Pause Cat Cafe

He used a mixture of wood he had in stock, donated materials and old furniture. The cute little kitty doors were actually made from regular doors!

Little wooden cat door

Simon came highly recommended to Jaya and though he admits the work was very stressful at times, he says he thoroughly enjoyed it. There were some very long days – up to 18 hours! –including one particularly memorable one.

“I ended up falling asleep at about 2 in the morning and didn’t wake up until people started coming in at 9am,” Simon laughs. “So I got up and pretended I’d just arrived as well!”

“I wanted the cats to be able to get around the whole café without having to touch the floor.”

Perhaps the café’s most striking feature is the incredible maze of bridges, walkways and stair cases for the cats to get around on.  A lot of thought went into their design and Simon wanted them to be neat and symmetrical. “I like the contrast of the disorder of the reclaimed wood and the order of the clean designs,” he explains. “The whole look is very organic; all the shelves support one another and it almost looks as if they are growing out of each other.”

The cat bridge The cafe interior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simon used a lot of wooden dowels as supports, which he bought for £1, and even got creative with a rolling pin, which he used to support the spiral staircase.

Rolling pin staircase support

A lot of work went into the back of house areas as well, including individual bedrooms for each of the cats.

Petrus' bedroom

The cat flap to each bedroom is activated by its cat’s own microchip.

While he admits he’s more of a dog person, Simon has grown to love the cats. “They all have very different personalities – that’s something I didn’t know about them at first.” He even very kindly named one of the cats, Petrus.

Petrus

“Petrus was the name of my grandmother’s dog, so I like that it has a family connection. I’ve named a boat Petrus as well.”

 “It satisfies my creative side.”

Simon’s passion project is carving beautiful end-grain chopping boards, which he plans to sell online very soon. He has a range of designs, his favourite being this Escher inspired “3D” chopping board.

Escher chopping board

He also carved and generously donated one to Pause, featuring a beautiful dark wood inlay of the café’s logo.

Pause Cat Cafe logo chopping board

He’s done such a fantastic job that I think we can forgive him for being a dog person!

You can find Simon’s work here – www.scallywagsfloors.co.uk – and buy his chopping boards here: www.geekmagnifique.co.uk/shop.

Before I start, I’d like to stress that I am in no way a finance expert and that entering into a financial agreement is a big decision that must be considered carefully. This post is purely to share the things I learned during the process and how I found the whole experience.

Choosing my car

I’d never bought a brand new car before, so I have to admit when I walked into Eden Vauxhall the first time, I was pretty excited.

I initially wanted a Vauxhall Corsa, for a few different reasons:

  • I’ve driven a few in the past (as hire cars) and I always found them comfortable and nice to drive
  • Friends of ours recently bought their car from Eden and had a really good experience
  • From the research I did I found that Vauxhall did some good 0% finance deals (more on that later)

In the end I went for a Vauxhall Adam Energised, which is smaller and a bit funkier than the Corsa.

Image of me with my new car

Me with Magnus!

Dave and I used to share one car, which worked fine when I walked or got the train to work. However, when I got my new job I realised I would need to drive, hence the need for a second car.

Our other car is quite big and where we’re moving to is a bit tight on parking, so it actually made sense to get a smaller car. I do sometimes miss having 5 doors, but on the whole I’m really happy with my new little car. It’s cheap to run, looks cute and gets me where I need to go – plus it has something called City Mode, which is AMAZING for parking in tight spaces.

Was it scary going car shopping?

Not at all! The staff at Eden were so friendly and I always felt very well taken care of. The showroom was spacious, modern and very comfortable, so while I had to do a wee bit of waiting around, I was able to do so on comfy sofas, with plenty of magazines and all the free coffee I could drink!

Jennie, the saleswoman that helped me, was lovely – very warm, helpful and professional, without being too pushy or sales-y.

She answered all my questions, talked me through the features and benefits of the car and took me on a test drive so I could get a feel for it.

Is car finance confusing?

It was a bit at first, but I made sure I did lots of research as I wanted to go in knowing what sort of deal I was looking for. I think this was a good idea as it helped me feel more prepared and sound like I knew roughly what I was talking about! Obviously you can ask questions and they’ll be more than happy to explain things, but it’s nice to have a basic understanding going in.

Can you explain a bit about car finance?

There are various different ways to finance your purchase, but the two main terms you’ll hear being thrown around are PCP and HP. Both are summed up very briefly below:

Personal Contract Purchase (PCP)

  • Flexible terms, low monthly payments (instalments only cover the partial cost of your car)
  • Low deposit required
  • At the end of your agreement you will need to pay a large chunk (or balloon payment) for the car to be yours
  • If you aren’t bothered about owning the car you can return it to the dealership or part exchange the car on a new finance agreement
  • Mileage restrictions apply, with penalties for exceeding them. You will also be penalised for damage to the car (beyond general wear and tear)
  • This type of finance is best suited to people who aren’t bothered about owning the car at the end. So, if you’re the type of person who likes swapping cars and having a brand-new one every few years, this could be a good option for you
  • You’ll hear the term ‘Guaranteed Future Value’ – more on this here

Hire Purchase (HP)

  • Once you’ve made your final payment you will own the car
  • Rather than smaller monthly payments followed by a large balloon payment at the end, your agreement will be made up of larger fixed monthly payments
  • You can vary the size of your deposit. The more you’re able to put down, the smaller your monthly payments will be

What about interest rates?

Interest (APR) rates vary and it is possible to find 0% interest deals, which is what I did. Quite simply this means my monthly payments are worked out as follows:

[Retail price of car + any extras (I’ll come to this later) – deposit] % by the number of months my contract runs for (48, in case you were wondering)

And that’s it, no interest is added on.

So…extras?

I added on floor mats (they weren’t included), GAP Insurance (I would recommend having this – more info here, and exterior paint and alloy protection. There were other options, such as upholstery protection, that I decided not to go for. Don’t worry – when you come to buy, the dealer will run through all your options and their benefits.

What next?

If you’re planning to buy a car and either don’t wish to purchase from a private seller or don’t have the funds to buy outright, you’ll want to start exploring finance options. The points I’ve mentioned here are very brief, but Creditplus* have a mine of information on the various types.

What I have learned though, is that buying a new car needn’t be scary or overwhelming. It’s a big purchase, but there is plenty of advice available to help you make the right choice. I’m really happy with my new car and had a great experience with the team at Eden.

I should say as well that I went for a brand new car because of the various perks that come with doing that, but finance is available on used and even classic cars, so your options aren’t limited!

*Disclaimer: Creditplus is my employer but all thoughts and opinions are my own and I received no additional financial incentive for writing this post.

 

Are you a tea lover? If so, how does having a selection of delicious loose leaf teas delivered straight to your door every month sound?

Yorkshire-based tea subscription service, True Tea Club, offer just that. They specialise in seven different teas – white tea, green tea, black tea, oolong, chai, rooibos and herbal – and have packages starting from £10 per month.

Subscribers receive a box containing four different teas each month and the lovely folk at True Tea Club very kindly sent me my own to try. So naturally, this was the perfect excuse to buy lots of cake (not that I need one!) and enjoy a lovely afternoon tea in the sunshine.

Each one of the teas was lovely and I thought the packaging was so cute. It was hard to pick a favourite, but I’d probably have to say the Mighty Mango took the crown.

Mighty Mango

Now, perhaps I’m being swayed by the fact that it was an absolute scorcher of a day and this was the only one of the teas we had iced, but this was lovely.

I’m a huge fan of mango iced tea anyway and though this one wasn’t quite sweet enough for me, with a tiny dash of agave syrup it was perfect. Also, the leaves smelled incredible!

Earl Grey Rebel


Earl Grey is usually my tea of choice and this was as lovely as they come. The leaves are wonderfully fragrant with strong citrus and bergamot notes. The blue cornflower also made them look beautiful.


This was lovely both with, and without, milk. It had such a refreshing, delicate flavour that I’d love to try it iced, as I think it would work really well.

Rainbow Chaser

Described as a ‘magical concoction of apple pieces, blackberry leaves, peppermint and orange peel’ this tasted like a really lovely peppermint tea with a twist. It was zingy and fresh, yet also very soothing. Again, I think this would work really well as an iced tea.

Vanilla Cupcake

Admittedly, this was the one I was most excited to try. Cake: good. Tea: gooooooood. Cake flavoured tea: GOOOOOD!

The banana chips were a wonderful addition to an already lovely, smooth rooibos tea. I had a cheeky banoffee cupcake with this and it’s safe to say my taste buds thanked me. My mother-in-law even went as far as to describe it as the best rooibos she’d ever tasted!

I was so impressed with the quality and selection of teas in my subscription box and I could definitely see this being a great gift for that special tea lover in your life (or just for you!).

You can customise your subscription by leaving a note on checkout. So, for example, if you’re not a fan of green tea, you can let them know and they’ll be sure not to include it in any of your boxes. If you fall in love with any of the teas they are available in the online shop and subscribers get 15% off all orders. I know I’ll be placing an order soon!

Delivery is free in the UK and just £3.75 for international shipping. Plus you can get 50% off your first subscription box by using the code ‘LOVE’ on checkout.

You can also find True Tea Club on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

 

Now I’m going to start this post by saying that I’m not a vegan, so a plant-based raw café wouldn’t be my usual choice. However, I’d heard such good things about Sukha Lounge (in particular, their hot chocolates!) that I had to give it a go.

Located next to Yoga Lounge, Boscombe, Sukha Lounge has exactly the relaxing, peaceful vibe you’d expect. The owner, Juliette, is warm and welcoming, and her passion for her food shines through.

Naturally we started with her famous hot chocolate and it did not disappoint! Made with cacao nibs, dates and almond butter, it’s hard to believe a hot chocolate so smooth and indulgent is completely dairy-free.

We were torn between the colourful array of salads on offer, as well as the sumptious all-day breakfast options, so we ordered ourselves a bit of a feast!

Fresh, crunchy and flavourful, the spring rolls were a personal favourite, and the pancakes topped with peanut butter and berries were a definite hit as well.

What surprised me the most was how much variety there was. We were spoiled for choice and each dish was simple, but full of great texture and flavour.

And then there were the cakes. Oh, the cakes. We tried a selection, including lemon cheesecake, banoffee pie, chocolate and raspberry cake and quite honestly, the most delicious apple tart I’ve ever eaten. Each one was indulgent, rich and impossibly creamy.

Last up I had a matcha latte, something I’ve been very keen to try for a while. Creamy, comforting and with an interesting seaweedy flavour, I could see how it might be an acquired taste, but I loved it.

I came away from Sukha Lounge feeling calm, relaxed and most importantly, full! The food is healthy and delicious, and the atmosphere warm and inviting. The simple, stripped back decor is complemented nicely by a few quirky pieces of furniture and soothing music helps to turn the cafe into a little oasis.

Vegan or not, you should visit Sukha Lounge if you want wholesome, delicious food served in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. I promise, you’ll be glad you did!

The lovely folk at Franco Manca Bournemouth very kindly invited me to attend their press event recently. Being a MASSIVE pizza lover, how could I say no?

We were welcomed at the door by lovely staff, who offered us a drink from a selection of wonderful sparkling wines, beer and the most delicious homemade lemonade I’ve ever tasted.

We were seated shortly after and from this point we enjoyed what I can only describe as a constant stream of food brought to our table.

We sampled amazing meats, focaccia bread with homemade pesto and burrata so good I’ve had dreams about it since.

The burrata of dreams!

Then we moved onto the main event: the pizzas. All Franco Manca pizzas are made with sourdough and fresh, simple but delicious toppings. We tried so many it’s hard to say which one was my favourite, but if you’re a fan of goat’s cheese, I have to say the goat’s curd is divine.

The wine was flowing freely as well, with the highlight definitely being a biodynamic (no, I had no idea either) sparkling red. I’ve never tried anything like it – smooth and mellow yet refreshing, with a light fizz. Wonderful.

Thankfully, we had a little break before dessert, at which point we had a go at making some pizzas ourselves. The chefs guided us through the process and it was great fun to have a go at picking our own toppings and use the giant paddle to put our pizzas in the oven.

The fab Kirsty having a go. Check out her vlog of the event here.

I pull some lovely faces.

The gorgeous Emma with her pizza creation!

My finished pizza.

Dessert was a wonderful selection of cakes, including tiramisu (an Italian favourite!), chocolate and hazelnut cake, and my personal favourite, a lemon and rosemary semolina cake served with natural yoghurt and honey. The perfect balance of sweet and tart, it was a great way to end what was admittedly a very rich meal!

I felt thoroughly spoiled as the drinks continued to flow and we enjoyed coffees and Limoncello, a cheeky digestif.

Cheers!

The service was wonderful and the food was honestly incredible – I would highly recommend! I also loved the simple, modern decor of the restaurant, with its beautiful, open kitchen offering you the chance to watch your food being freshly prepared.

Bournemouth’s Franco Manca is attached to Debenhams, and one quirky feature of the layout is that they have a door leading straight into the menswear department!

Everything, from the staff to the music, lent itself perfectly to the chilled, friendly atmosphere, making this not only a delicious, but thoroughly enjoyable dining experience.

Find your nearest Franco Manca here!