Devonshire Woman

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Eight Super Tips To Secure A Family Home

Finding the perfect home is one of the biggest challenges you’re likely to face. There are so many factors which go into your decision – from where your job is based to what budget you have available. And of course, everybody has a different idea of what makes a dream home. However, if you’re hunting for a family home to raise your children in, there are certain factors you’d be wise to consider in your search. In general, you should be looking for a home you can occupy for a span of at least five to ten years, with room to expand into. Finding a great house to raise kids in goes much further than just the number of bedrooms and bathrooms – that can always be altered later anyway. Here are the top considerations to mull over:

  1. What is the neighbourhood like?

Of course, you will want to select a house which within a reasonable commute of your workplace, but when it comes to your neighbourhood you need more than that. A sense of community becomes increasingly important when you have small children in a way that it often isn’t as a young professional without a family. You’ll want to be ideally in a neighbourhood with lots of young families, nursery facilities, playgrounds and of course great schools. Having other families as your neighbours ensures a child-friendly community and probably a good few mother and baby coffee mornings as well.

2. What Is Your Outdoor Space Like?

As a singleton or a young couple, as long as there is enough space to squeeze a few friends round for a barbecue, you don’t generally mind having less outdoor space, but children change all that – they will certainly need outdoor space to play. Also assess how safe any garden space is or can be made to be – does it have secure perimeters and a secure gate to enter and exit? If you’re not looking for a house for sale, but you want an apartment, then look to see if the location is near parks and other outdoor spaces that you can reach easily.

3. Is It A Smart Home?

Smart tech, or AI, in the home is becoming increasingly common, and for families with young children it’s a huge bonus. Network controlled security, heating and air conditioning units, lighting, safety features, and entertainment systems have gone mainstream in the last few years. And as parents of young children, they can be really useful, not least because you spend a lot more time at home. It may seem like a nice must-have now, but when you’re struggling to get the baby to sleep, having the ability to control lights, window shades or heating from your phone can become very valuable indeed, as anyone who has ever been trapped under a sleeping baby can attest!

4.Is There A Family Kitchen?

The kitchen really is the heart of the house when you have kids – it’s where everyone tends to naturally congregate, kids play with their toys or do homework and you share family meals – so it’s a good idea to make sure the kitchen is a decent sized room, as you’ll be spending a lot of time in there. Ideally, choose one with plenty of space for a dining table and chairs, perhaps some modular seating and perhaps an island with bar stools for quick breakfasts in the morning. Remember, if the house you like doesn’t have this you could add it – if you space available and the location allow it. In many ways, this is better as you can choose exactly what you want, but it will obviously add cost, so make sure you use your negotiation skills to secure a price reduction to allow some slack in the budget to cover a kitchen renovation if necessary.

5.What Is The Entryway Like?

It may seem quite a minor issue, but anyone with a young family knows that babies and toddlers come with a whole heap of equipment. On a daily basis, you are likely to be bustling in and out with a pram, car seat, changing bag, toys, snacks, schoolbag, sports equipment, coats, shoes and more. A decent porch or a spacious hallway can really help with this, as you can kit it out with a storage bench, pegs and other clever solutions to keep the clutter contained and make sure that you always know exactly where the kids stuff is to avoid the stressful morning dashing about the house trying to find things will cause.

6.What Are The Local Facilities Like?

Suddenly, when you have little people relying on you, you’re going to find yourself dashing to the local shop to pick up the carton of milk you forgot  or the pack of nappies when you’ve run out, or needing to get hold of medicines at odd times – because teething never happens when it’s convenient! So the local shops and facilities become much more important. Having a supermarket or a well stocked local store can make all the difference at these critical moments, as well as having a doctor’s surgery and a pharmacy relatively close by. This move can save you a lot of stress on many occasions.

7.Is There Room To Grow?

You may not know at this point how many children you’re going to have, or how big your family will end up being. Life is full of unpredictabilities when it comes to such things – could the next baby turn out to be twins? Will the kids demand a dog? Will you decide you need to start up a business and work from home to get a better work-life balance? So it’s a good idea to choose a family home which has the potential to be expanded in the future – or even look at building your dream home. Look for things like a large yard that you could extend into without losing all your outdoor space, a basement or attics which could be converted to provide a study or more bedrooms, garage space at the side which you could build on top of – or even outdoors space where you could site a garden room or studio. This will help to future proof your home and means that you won’t have to go through all the stress and upheaval of moving again if your circumstances change quickly.

8. Can You Add Value?

The house that you buy should be first and foremost a family home which suits your lifestyle. However, it’s also worth thinking about it in terms of the financial side. As the biggest investment you are likely to make, and also something many people see as a future inheritance for their children, it makes sense to understand if the house is likely to appreciate in value. If it’s in a desirable area or somewhere up and coming, it’s likely to gain value through time, but also assess what you could do in the future – adding more square footage is a good way to drive up the value of your property. If a home already has everything possible done, it’s unlikely that you will be able to do anything to add much more to the bottom line, so you’ll be reliant on market-driven inflation only.

How To Eat Comfort Food Without Breaking The Calorie Bank

Comfort food is just the best. It makes you feel good, it tastes good, but the problem is that it’s usually a bit naughty too, high in fat, calories, carbs, etc. because that combination is just irresistible. Some of our most-loved family dinners are calorific which is very annoying. But what if you could have comfort food and still lose weight or just not put it on depending on what your goals are?

There are a few helpful tips you can use so you can still enjoy your favorites.

Don’t Use Too Much Oil

When you’re cooking or frying try to measure the amount of oil you use, keeping it to roughly one teaspoon a person as this can significantly reduce the calorie content of your final dish.

Include At Least One Portion Of Vegetables

Whatever you’re eating, try to have at least one, if not two portions of vegetables with it so that you boost the fiber and nutrient content of your meal, which will keep you full and satisfied, without adding too much to the calorie content.

Swap Meat For Plant Alternatives

You could try a “Meat-Free Monday,” which will help to you boost the fiber content of your meals or include more beans, nuts, and pulses in your meals – bean burgers, for example, are delicious but low in calories.

Grate Your Cheese

Grating your cheese helps it to go a little further, and you can sprinkle it all over your dish and reduce the calorie content of your meal.

Swap creamy sauces for tomato-based sauces

This isn’t always possible, but when it comes to curries and pasta dishes, you can certainly do it.

Use more herbs and spices

Herbs and spices will flavor your dish enabling you to leave out the butter and salt in recipes. Experimenting with new flavors can be interesting too, giving your taste buds something different to enjoy.

Use Vegetable Replacements

Have you tried courgetti instead of spaghetti? Cauliflower rice instead of regular rice? Butternut Squash chips or lasagne sheets? There are so many ways of doing this, and it means you include more vegetables by replacing something else, but you don’t feel like you’re missing out. Give it a try and see what you think.

A few quick and easy meal ideas for comforting yet healthy meals are, soup – always makes you feel warm and satisfied, Homemade pizza can be created with a cauliflower base, a pitta bread or a wholemeal wrap. Top it with tonnes of veg, and some grated cheese and voila! You have a healthy pizza. Then you can’t go wrong with a healthy but yummy stir-fry, it is one of the simplest healthy meals you can make. Add a tonne of vegetables like baby corn, onion, peppers or green beans, then add toss some chicken, fish, prawns or tofu and nuts to make sure you’re getting some protein and iron in there too. To flavor, you could also add peanut butter or a few splashes of soya sauce.

Don’t Allow Dietary Requirements Prevent You From Losing Weight

While your weight shouldn’t be the be all and end all of your happiness, shifting the few extra pounds that you ended up putting on at Christmas can do wonders for your self confidence and will leave you feeling healthier. Going on fad diets never works for anyone so don’t be tempted by the cabbage soup, vinegar or half an apple a day diet. These aren’t healthy and can end up doing you more harm than good. Yes, you might lose weight fast, but you’ll feel awful and you’ll put it straight back on again when you start eating normally. Instead, you need to change your whole approach to eating. This can be tough if you have specific dietary requirements or if you suffer from allergies. However, by following a few simple rules, this needn’t prevent you from losing weight.

Go To Specialists

While it might cost a tad more, heading to a specialist retailer for your food can save you the worry of ingesting something that you really don’t want to. If you are coeliac and cannot eat gluten, don’t spend your time scouring the labels checking ingredients. Many well known brands might appeal to the gluten free market, but still make items such as gluten free bread and pasta in a factory that uses wheat. To be safe, go for the producer that ONLY makes gluten free products. That way, you can be sure of not having a poorly tummy or pain.

Gluten free isn’t necessarily healthier than wheat based products. However, if you are coeliac, these are the items that you need to purchase. Look at your portion size and ensure that you don’t have more than 75 grams of pasta for a meal. This may seem tiny compared to what you are used to, but it’s all about changing what’s on your plate and the proportions. Ditch the carbs in favor of vegetables and lean meats and fish.


Most people can eat pretty much any meat. However, some choose not to eat pork due to a religious observance and others need their meat to be slaughtered in a certain way. By sourcing meat like halal sausages, you can still enjoy those summer barbecues without feeling like a nuisance enquiring about the origins of the host’s meat. Take your own meat, offer some to others and share your dietary requirements. Often people are interested and want to hear about why you eat a certain way. Some sausages can be incredibly healthy, using leaner meats or supplementing meat entirely for vegetables. This makes the fat content much lower than pork based varieties.

Vegetarianism is very in at the moment, so check out the beetroot craze and the jackfruit frenzy. These are healthier alternatives to meat yet still leave you feeling satisfied.

If you do suffer from allergies, ensure that you check ingredients lists carefully. If in doubt, consider homemade versions of shop bought food. This way, you can make the dish that you are cooking healthier and safer for you to eat.

Having different dietary needs shouldn’t prevent you from getting fitter, healthier and losing weight.

Things You Must Consider When Buying A Home

Becoming a homeowner for the first time is an exciting prospect. However, it can also be quite daunting. No matter how you look at it, buying a home is a major financial decision, and is, in fact, the biggest purchase that most people make throughout their entire lives. Because of this, you’re going to want to make sure that you choose the perfect place for you and your family. With that in mind, here are six things that you must consider when you buy a home of your own.

1. The Budget

Finding the right home for you is challenging enough, but finding one that you can afford is a lot harder. To avoid disappointments later down the line, the very first thing that you need to do is plan your budget. Make sure that you consider every hidden cost that you can think of, including repairs and legal fees. Once you’ve done this, you should only look at houses that fit this budget.

2. The Location

No two areas are exactly the same, so make sure that you do plenty of research on the neighbourhoods that homes reside in, as well as the properties themselves. Check how long it would take for you to get to work each day and the quality of the schools nearby. You can also look up crime rates and other important information, to make sure that your family will be safe.

3. The Feeling

You can tell a lot about a home from your first impressions of it. If you walk into a property and can immediately imagine your family living there, then this is a pretty clear sign that you’ve found somewhere worth considering. That being said, you should hold off from making an offer right away. This is a significant transaction, so you have to make sure that it’s worth your money.

4. The Condition

Before you can fall in love with any property, you have to check that it’s in a livable condition. Although many homeowners will carry out repairs and necessary renovations before putting their home on the market, others choose to sell their property as it is. If you have an already busy lifestyle, then you don’t want to be stuck decorating and doing up a fixer-upper house too.

5. The Future

While some people move home many times in their life, others would rather buy a house and stay there forever. If you’re in the latter group, then your home must work for you in the future too. Unless your parents would rather be with professionals, like those at Porthaven care homes, they may live with you in later years. For this reason, your new home must be suitable for them.

6. The Neighbours

After putting in an offer on your forever home, the last thing that you want is to be lumbered with unwelcoming and hostile neighbours. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, you should take the time to introduce yourself to those next door when viewing the property. This will either kickstart your friendship or show you that the neighbours aren’t people that you want to live next to forever.

House hunting can be tough, but, hopefully, with this advice, you can find a property perfect for your family.

My One Month Social Media Break…

I’ve always wanted to give this blogging a go, like treat it like my job. I have been blogging on and off since 2008, back then it was free wordpress blogs, that you simply added blurry pictures to, wrote your content and sent it out into the interweb. Now it is a whole new ball game, there is so much to know and learn, there are rules and algorithms and saturation of other bloggers and influencers.

The fact of the matter is, my blogs have never been a success. It’s not like i haven’t got content, i have photo albums of content all ready to be a blog post, my problem is this content never makes it into a post. The frustrating part about all this is my fear of missing out (FOMO), i am so busy seeing what every other person is taking photos of or writing about that i have left no time for myself. Doh!! Then there is the whole comparison is the thief of joy and before I know it, my blog is not good enough, my photos aren’t good enough and everything that I could be achieving is archived into the ‘could do better’ folder.

Scrolling…. scrolling social media is my arch enemy it would turn out. I am too scared to think about how many hours i have wasted scrolling. You know what happens when you scroll social media… life happens, all around you but you are in a bubble of perfect photos, of faces you will never look like, homes you will never be able to afford and dream lives that you will never have. Yet if all of this was not there, you may be able to look in the mirror and think I look OK today, my little home is all i need and my life is perfect as it is.

Due to my scrolling, i have what i can only describe as excessive noise, so many images, comments, ideas and things i want to do and achieve, all going around in my head. I decided at the beginning of the year, i wanted to reduce this noise and step back into Amy’s world, i have been in Instagram world for a bit too long.

1st January, I decided to take a social media break. The noise was too much, I was feeling anxious, angry that my life doesn’t feel as simple as it should be.

It is 31 days later and the noise has reduced, I am ‘back in the room’ if you like, things are beginning to sound clearer and I feel lighter. I am realising that I just didn’t have the balance quite right. I should live my life, write about it, share it and then have a little glance at what others are doing. Instead, I have been watching what everyone else is doing, checking again what everyone else is doing, thinking that would be good to write about on my blog, check what everyone else is doing, oh that blog idea is now old or obsolete, check what everyone else is doing… I think you get the gist!

I don’t think social media is bad, i have learnt a lot from others and feel inspired by their lifestyles and ideas. I think i have just been using it wrong. I still feel the urge to ‘take a photo of that’ as it would get a lot of likes on Instagram. The subconscious voice saying ‘check Instagram, you have a second free’ knowing full well, 30 minutes later i could still be scrolling!

Tomorrow, my social media break is officially over. Was it hard to do? At the beginning, it really was. I didn’t realise how often I checked my phone until i couldn’t anymore. For the first few days, I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself. I had forgotten how to fill voids of time – how sad is that?!! This past month has been truly awesome and a complete eye-opener. I feel calm and there is clarity where everything felt a bit like too many tabs were open in my mind. I have been more connected physically with people and it’s nice hearing news from people’s actual mouths instead of knowing it all already through facebook. I have baked for the joy of it and not just to take photos of my creations on instagram. I have read books, 3 whole books which is a massive achievement for this slow reader. I have felt more connected than ever to my children, we have learnt to play Uno and without fail play a game every evening before bed.

So will i be back on social media tomorrow? Probably not! I will not be putting the apps back on my phone anyway, but i may check in now and again. I have really missed some accounts on Instagram so i will enjoy catching up with them. My scrolling days are over, i like living in the actual world, the virtual one isn’t all that. I plan to blog and post more, rather than scroll, scroll, scroll.

Do you feel like you have the balance right when it comes to social media?

The Perfect Night’s Sleep is Just a Few Tricks Away…

Sleeplessness is a very modern compliant. While our ancestors fell into bed after a long day at work, physically tired out, we tend to keep going, our heads spinning with emails that need to be sent, meetings we’re anxious about and an endless to-do list. We have exchanged physical tiredness for mental exhaustion.

While you may not wish to change your job and go back to mining or farming like your ancestors, you can make changes to your home to ensure that you are living as healthy a lifestyle as possible. And when it comes to getting the best night’s sleep, your bedroom is the place to begin.

Get the Right Environment

Your bedroom should be cool, dark and comfortable to maximise the quality of your sleep. With this in mind, you should have a clear out right now of any electronics that glow all night (hello, digital alarm clock) and ensure that you have proper blackout curtains. Rising and sleeping with the sun may not be possible with orange streetlights right outside but a Lumie body clock light will simulate the effects, making it much easier to wake and sleep naturally.

Your bed is also really important and the right mattress really does speak for itself. To get high quality sleep, you must ensure that you are comfortable and well supported.  Whether you are a side sleeper or you sleep on your back, your spine should be perfectly aligned to that you don’t wake up with aches and pains. Have a look at silentnight mattresses for more information.

Good Habits to Prepare for Sleep

Sleep, getting to sleep and waking up are all still areas of research and there’s a lot we still don’t know about the process. But what we do know is that there are a few behaviours that help to aid sleep and some that prohibit it.

Good habits to get into are reducing the amount of blue light you are exposed to before you plan to sleep. Blue light tends to inhibit the production of melatonin (the hormone that triggers tiredness) and so you don’t sleep as easily. Using soft lighting and reading a book or magazine an hour before bed is a really good idea.

Taking a warm bath around an hour before bed can also really help if you struggle to get to sleep. The idea is that as the body cools after the bath, you simulate the natural cooling process that comes with a good night’s sleep.

Ditch the Bad Habits

One of the worst things you can do is start worrying while you should be sleeping. Checking emails, social media and even working late at night is pretty tempting for everyone but doesn’t help in the long term. Leave your electricals and gadgets outside the bedroom, or at least turn your phone onto airplane mode to avoid distraction.

A warm drink before bed acts a bit like a warm bath but if you favour tea or coffee, you might be self-sabotaging. Try to limit your caffeine intake to the morning to avoid being overstimulated when you want to rest. Hot chocolate is your best friend.

Beyond Escapes Spa Package Experience

A couple of weekends ago, husband and I were invited to experience a spa package at Beyond Escapes Devon. Since having our boys 7 years ago, we realised that we haven’t really done anything relaxing together, whenever we have been child free it’s to get on with all those niggly jobs that you just can not do with little people around. Husband has never been to a spa (say what?!) and it has been a while since I have visited one too, so we really wasn’t sure what to expect.

We decided to give the BE Indulged package a try, which included:

  • Prosecco or soft drink on arrival
  • Elemis Full Body Swedish massage or Elemis Superfood Pro-Radiance Facial
  • BE Tempted Restaurant Afternoon Tea
  • Full use of BE You Thermal Spa
  • BE You Spa £10 voucher towards facial and body products

The spa is located in Higher Blagdon which is near Totnes, with a sat nav it is very easy to find. The location is beautiful with sea views over Torbay and a wonderful view of Berry Head in Brixham.

If you are familiar with the area, this used to be the site of the old Barton Pines Inn but has been transformed into Beyond Escapes Devon.

We arrived and was taken to our treatment room. Husband opted for the Swedish massage and I went for the Elemis Superfood facial. Our spa treatments were in the same room which was really nice, they also have 2 separate single treatment rooms too. Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

The spa treatment was a complete full sensory experience! Firstly, the beds were heated which instantly made me relax, there was soothing music playing, the room smelled divine of all the Elemis products. My favourite part of the facial was not only all the gorgeous products being used but I could feel the therapist waft the product under my nose before applying, making it a true aromatherapy experience too. Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

The facial was amazing and my husband really rated his back massage. His job is highly manual and he gets pain in his neck and shoulders often. The therapist found lots of knots and ironed them out. His back has been feeling a lot better. The treatment ended with a refreshing glass of cucumber, lemon and lime water.

Following our treatment, we were left to get in our robes and flip-flops. Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

The unisex changing room was clean and spacious. We put our belongings in a locker, which locked using our wristbands and we were ready to just chill.

Our first stop was the heated loungers, this is a perfect place to allow the oils from the spa treatment to sink in and also to sip on a nice glass of prosecco or juice. Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

The view was spectacular, it was a beautiful autumnal day with a clear view of Torbay. Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

Cheers to chilling with no children around! Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

Our next stop… the thermal spa. We first tried the sauna, which was heated to a whopping 46c!! Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

Then cooled off with a couples foot spa! Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

Next, we tried the steam room… Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

And finally, the monsoon shower. There were two settings; red which was hot and blue which was cold, brrrr! Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

Check out my post-facial and spa glow! Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

After the thermal spa, we took the plunge and went out into the cool autumn air to enjoy the outdoor heated jacuzzi. Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

The air was fresh and the pool was perfectly heated. We lay in the water and activated the jacuzzi and looked out over the countryside and sea. It was bliss. This was when we realised that we haven’t spent quality time together without the children for a long time and this was the perfect way to do it.

We dried off and warmed up back in the sauna and then ventured upstairs in our robes to enjoy an afternoon tea in the BE Tempted restaurant. Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

We were given a selection of sandwiches, including smoked salmon and cream cheese, turkey and cranberry and cheese and pickle. Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

I loved all the mini desserts, but the macaron was my ultimate favourite. Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

And finally, I left room for the cream tea. The scones were the freshest I have ever had served with a mini jar of jam and lashings of clotted cream. The cream tea was served with tea or coffee. After our afternoon tea, we had an hour left of our package so we relaxed on the heated loungers and watched the sunset and finished with a couple more minutes in the sauna.

Back in the changing room, wet kit bags were provided for our swimwear and also hair dryers. Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

There were three individual lockable shower rooms, I enjoyed a post-spa shower, using some wonderful Elemis shampoo and conditioning products. This was the perfect end to our spa package. Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

As part of the spa package, we also had use of the gym, but as we had our treatment at the start of the package, we were far too relaxed to try it! But maybe next time.

The staff were friendly and helpful. The facilities and spa were very clean. The spa is only small, which I really liked. Although others were using the spa, we had a lot of areas to ourselves most of the time. We truly had a relaxing experience during our spa package.

There is a choice of 3 packages available, BE Revived is a morning package (9am-1pm), which includes all of the above and a light lunch instead of afternoon tea. BE Indulged (1pm-5pm) is the package that we experienced and BE Relaxed (6pm-9pm) includes a treatment, use of the spa and also a 2-course meal.

A Beyond Escapes spa package would make a fantastic gift for yourself or loved one. Spa packages are priced between £75-£95 per person. It’s definitely something to put on your Christmas list and you can find out more on the Beyond Escapes website. Beyond Escapes Spa Package experience

Disclosure: I was invited on the above spa package for the purpose of this review, however, all opinions are my own.