Food: Huevos Rancheros

I haven’t done a food entry in a while.  So here’s what I’m cooking for dinner tonight:


…Huevos Rancheros, which to my understanding is a spicy egg and bean dish served on a tortilla (at least, that’s what I’ve gleaned from looking at the picture and reading the ingredients list).  I have been trying to find more healthy evening meals that aren’t going to leave me feeling short of energy, like quite a lot of ‘diet’ foods do because all the real nutrition has been removed.  This recipe is actually from Runner’s World and features in their running manuals and on their website HERE.  It’s full of protein and good fats.  The really great thing about it is that it’s quick (10-12 minutes) and simple (only heating and chopping really) to prepare, so is a good choice when you’re feeling like you have hardly any time to prepare food after a long day at work and a post-work run.

(NB it would probably be even quicker if I didn’t insist on using every pan in the kitchen thus creating more washing up than really necessary)

Here’s mine:



Ok, so I’ve managed to hide the tomatoes and refried beans under the eggs and I also went for a margarita over a tomato juice, but I think this counts as a success.  It was also very tasty, though it’s one of those dishes where you probably have to make it a few times, adjusting the level of chilli, before you get it quite how you like it.  I knew mine was just the right type of spicy by the fact the cats took one smell and sauntered off without even one attempt to steal a bit.  I will definitely be having this again  🙂


Revisiting the road that got away…

The London property market is crazy and despite the ‘crash’ in 2009 it would appear that house prices in the city and surrounds have recovered, some now exceeding their pre-crash highs.  Though some reports express concerns about the impact of new and tighter lending rules, as yet there has been no visibly significant effect on prices.  [1]

In the last post I wrote about the first house I loved enough to try and buy.  That was about 5 years ago.  The house was on the market for just over £200,000, received asking price offers from 3 separate interested buyers (according to the agent) and eventually sold for £225,000.  That same house is now ‘worth’ in the region of £330,000 according to Zoopla‘s growth tool.

You might remember from the pictures in my previous post that the house was in need of updating/renovation.  There is currently a house for sale on the same road which has been renovated entirely and the below pictures show what you can achieve with these houses with a little work (though they have made the space look much, much bigger than it is in reality).

Front of House


Looking at the living room you can see how similar the house looks to the one I viewed but the work that has been done makes the house feel lighter and larger.



The kitchen is still small but the space is being used more efficiently and the light coloured units make it appear less cramped.  I also think in this one they’ve extended into the garden or across the back of the house a little.



Front Bedroom


Now for the shock…

This house is for sale for £475,000!  I’d like to believe it was a misprint or a fluke, but there’s another house on the same road for sale for around the same.  It’s astonishing what a coat of paint and the passage of 5 years can do.   Except in London, this is becoming the norm – the bubble doesn’t seem willing to pop.  Of course, it won’t while people are willing to pay almost half a million pounds for a 2 bed terrace in one of the less desirable postcodes.

Talking of less desirable postcodes, I’ll be following this entry up with a look at some of the houses that have sold on my own road since buying the Cloud.   Again, it’s a case of what a difference 5 years makes…


[1]  Business Report ; Reuters ;  BBC ;

The One That Got Away…

One of the best bits of information I heard from an estate agent when house-hunting was to buy the sort of house that was most common in the area you were looking in, or to choose an area where the types of houses you like are the prevalent ones.  Anything that was unusual for the area would attract a much higher price and you would get less value for your money.  So in London, in most areas this will mean a terraced house.  Bearing in mind London house prices and their tendency to spiral ever upwards at a rate which can put a house you have been considering out of your budget within months, I was happy that the estate agent thought a whole house would be within my reach!

This is a picture of the first house I loved enough to make an offer on.  It was a 2-up 2-down terrace, just outside my preferred search area but that was new on the market and the asking price was well within budget.

house 10

Front of House


Look at that front door!!  ♥

As the process of buying a first house is a bit of a rite of passage, I wanted to document it and I kept all of the pictures from the listing so I could look back at the house that got away.  The main thing I remember without looking at the pictures was how ‘homey’ this house felt, it was the first house I viewed that didn’t feel like a ‘for sale’ house, it just felt like the people who lived there had popped out for a while and would be back soon.  It had a really good feeling to it that wasn’t present in every house I saw, like the family in it had really enjoyed their lives there.  You’ll see from the following three pictures of the living room that the sellers were breaking one of the cardinal rules of achieving a quick sale (well, according to Kirsty & Phil) by not decluttering and as a result, it was really obvious that they had outgrown the house.  However, it didn’t really matter as, to me at least, it just added to the feel…

house 1

Living Room (Front)


I loved the shelving in the recesses above, and the ceiling lamp in the picture below!


house 2

Living Room (Rear)

The folding doors between the two halves of the downstairs are a really good idea that I’m considering for the Cloud, I think they would make heating the living space much easier and mean that the room can be used in more different ways than currently.   The flooring was lovely throughout this house, wooden floors all over apart from the hallway which was tiled in black and white.  The old carpets are still down in the Cloud, but I hope to find at least one room that has good original floorboards which I can sand and varnish 🙂

house 9

The kitchen was one of the only disappointments in this house.  It was tiny.  The picture below actually makes it look a bit bigger than it was but it must have only been about 8 feet by 8 feet.  You basically would stand in the middle to do everything as the units formed a ‘U’ shape around you.  That bit of work surface in the picture…that was it for useable surfaces.  You can see that they have managed to have a kettle and toaster on there, but what about my food processor, coffee machine and various other implements!?  There was space to extend sideways across the back of the house though, which is possibly what I was thinking when I made an offer on the house.  Though, knowing what i know now about how little money you are left with post-purchase and how many other ‘essential’ things would have likely got in the way of a new kitchen, I think I would have been living with the tiny non-fitted kitchen of awkwardness for a lot longer than anticipated.


house 3



One of the real advantages to buying a terraced house is that you usually get a little garden and this one was lovely.  The overgrown plants in the surrounding gardens made this one feel really private and it was such a lovely space on the bright day we viewed the house. Big enough for a shed and a table with chairs but small enough to feel tucked away and like you are in your own little space.  

house 4



When I look back, I know that this house would not have been the best choice for a lot of reasons…especially not if I had paid the price it eventually reached (which, in case you are interested, was well above the asking price, such is the London property market).  It was too small and that would have become very apparent very quickly.  The lack of a proper fitted kitchen and lack of space to really put one in would have been a growing frustration.  The second bedroom (not pictured) had a sloping ceiling which meant half the room would have had to be used ‘creatively’.  Also, it was a much longer walk from the Tube than I would have preferred.  So on reflection, I actually prefer to remember it as the one that got away and it remain a lovely house in my memory, rather than an inconvenient one in reality.

A new front door…

So, I think I mentioned that the first job we had done was the replacement of the front door.   You might remember that I recently wrote about things to think about when choosing a front door and concluded that the two main things to think about were that the door was secure and that it looked good.  Well, here’s the original entryway to the Cloud in all its glory:

Old Door:

old door

It’s not the sexiest door really.

Out main concern was security though.  Mainly because glass can be easily broken and the panels on this door were large enough for a person to fit through if the glass was removed.  Also, despite the glass being slightly opaque, it was still possible to see post on the mat in the hallway if you were in the storm porch.   We felt that wouldn’t be great when we were away from the house for any length of time.   Finally, the lock was fairly simple and old.

So out came the catalogue and on went the thinking caps.   The new door was selected and it was at this point we hit our first snag.  Believe it or not, our DIY skills were so limited that we weren’t entirely sure how to properly take the measurements for the new door.   It wasn’t helped by the window panel above the door either as we were struggling to work out if that was a separate element or a part of the door frame (it was the latter).   The order form queried our selection of all manner of unheard of things such as weld finish, threshold and cill.   In the end we got our builder to fill those parts in whilst we concentrated on the interesting bits like choosing handles, letterplates and a knocker.

And here’s the finished product…

New Door:

new door

I wish the transformation had been as simple as writing about it, but installing the door was our first lesson in fixing up an old house and taught us the rule that has yet to be broken in any of our subsequent projects.

Any small job you do on an old house will never be straightforward.

The only revision to this rule I’m considering is that it should apply to big jobs too.  I won’t bore you with the details of mammoth task that was fitting the new front door.  The short version is that it took the best part of 13 hours (our builder has endless patience) and involved discovering that when the previous door had been fitted it had been done so without the frame of the door prior to it having been removed and the whole welded together mass was incredibly time-consuming and difficult to remove (without taking most of the wall with it, which was of course my preference).

A couple more tweaks to make the handle less stiff and the lock line up properly and it was done, we think it looks very good!  I think we could do with a new gate too though…

Cheese Scones – What went wrong?

I think I’m about to break one of the unwritten rules of home/food blogging by posting something rather unattractive.

When I come across the baking/cooking/foodie posts of other home bloggers, their creations are always yummy looking and prompt feelings of wanting to attempt whatever they have made for myself so that I can also indulge in the tasty delight shown in the blog picures.   I very much doubt the picture to follow will inspire similar feelings in those viewing it!

The reason I’ve been looking at food posts is that I’ve been determined that in order to justify the super-shiny kitchen I have been dreaming of, I will spend the years in which we are saving for it also learning to use it.   Thus far I have mastered the victoria sponge cake and the odd ‘healthy’ recipe (and in relation to the latter, I mean I’ve cooked them once and pronounced them edible).   So today, in an attempt to widen my range, though staying at the fairly simple end of the difficulty scale, I decided to make some cheese scones.  My friend Cat has made them on several occasions and they’ve been lovely – tasty on their own or good with pea soup!

They are made by using a plain scone recipe and adding grated cheese.  I used the BBC Good Food receipe – here.  5 ingredients, 5 steps.  How hard can it be?

Well, here is the picture of what they should look like:


And here is the picture of what mine look like:


Why are mine cheese biscuits?!   Can someone with more culinary talent than I (i.e. most people) please point out what I did wrong?  They’re very tasty but not entirely what I was aiming for.

What’s in a door?

My first few blog posts are going to be about the few things we have done to the house in the years we have been here.  Hopefully this will put you in the picture as to where we are and what’s to come!

The first cosmetic job we decided to address when we bought the house was buying a new front door. Given that our finances were tight in the months after moving in, you’d think this wouldn’t have been a priority but you’ll see in the next entry why it was.  This entry covers front doors more generally and a lot of what I’m writing will link to why the front door was front of the queue for replacement!

The way I thought about it was thathere are two essential things that a front door contributes to a house.

1. Kerb Appeal

The qualities of a building that make it attractive when it is seen from the street.


The front door is the one of the first things visitors to your home will see and it is usually the focal point when taking in the view of your house .  It’s also one of the few ‘structural’ ways of marking your style on the exterior of your home.  Some  say that the colour you choose for your front door tells of your personality, whereas the style of the door tells of the house’s personality.  I’m a big fan of traditional, simple & solid looking front doors.

The above is one of my favourite pictures from Pinterest – I think it’s a look very typical of London houses.  Little Grey Cloud has a storm porch, which is very practical but has the slight drawback of obscuring the front door a little. I would have loved a house with steps up to the front door and columns or iron railings, but those are more typical of Bloomsbury addresses and as such a little out of the reach of first time buyers!


A row of my dream houses – Cartwright Square, Bloomsbury

2. Security

The state of feeling safe, stable and free from fear and anxiety.

secure doors

One of the main reasons for us replacing the front door of the Cloud fairly quickly was to ensure we had a good secure one.  The Met Police say that the primary route of entry and exit to a home for burglars is through doors so we thought this was a wise thing to sort early on.

I’ve inlcuded a link to a useful guide to ensuring your home’s doors are secure below, so I won’t attempt a comprehensive guide in this post but you primarily need to be thinking about the material of which it’s made  and if/where to have any glass panels.  If you are replacing or fitting a new door set, make sure it is certified to British Standard PAS24-1: 1999 ‘Doors of Enhanced Security’.  Timber doors should have a solid core, be at least 44mm thick and comply with BS 8220.  Most new upvc & composite doors come with built-in 5-point locking systems, whereas you would need to add your own locks to a timber door.

Glazed panels often add interest to the design of a door but can represent a significant weakness.   Larger glass panels are best avoided and all glazed areas in or around the door should be laminated glass, or covered with a reinforcing window film.  This may be where style and security clash, but there is such a wide range of doors on the market now that I’m sure you’ll find something you like but that will still sufficiently protect your home.

When we were choosing our new door, we tried our best to balance both of the above.  In doing so, we made the hard decision not to choose and restore a reclaimed solid wood door.  Instead, we bought a  upvc-composite door.  We had two  reasons for making this choice.  Security – as outlined above and following a discussion with our local crime prevention officer who informed us about how easy a wooden door was to break (and we really wanted to avoid hiding the door behind any sort of iron gate).  Ease of use – my parents have a traditional solid wood door and it is very much affected by the weather – swelling in the heat and shrinking in the cold (I can’t count how many times I nearly dislocated my shoulder trying to pull that door open!).

Though we chose a modern alternative, I still wanted it to be in a style appropriate to the age of the house as far as possible.  There will be some pictures of the new door in my next entry, so you can see what you think of our selection.

There’s a part of me that wishes I’d been a bit more creative, like the people who own the house pictured below:

pink door

Image Credits



[3] [3]


Useful Links’s front door gallery – here

The Met Police advice & tips on front door security – here

Buying an old house…

Owning an old house can be a joy – they are often full of features you wouldn’t get in a newer build (I’m thinking high ceilings, fireplaces and rooms which aren’t a plain rectangle shape) and structurally solid.  People are often drawn to older houses because of the character these features lend.   Also, older houses are often more spacious, particularly in cities where new developments seem to focus on maximising the overall number of properties not the space within each.   So older houses can represent better value for money.


I wouldn’t argue with any of the above (and in fact, it pretty much sums up our reasons for buying the Cloud) but would caution that in many cases old houses require a lot of work and when that work is done, a lot of maintenance.

In the 4 years that we have owned the Cloud we’ve encountered and had to fix:

  •  the lack of a damp proof course
  • a broken toilet overflow which caused a leak into the kitchen ceiling
  • a leaking / broken chimney stack on the back part of the roof
  • old/worn flashing & guttering causing a leak into the bathroom ceiling
  • leaky pipework under the bath which caused the second leak into the kitchen ceiling
  • bowed floorboards in the back of the living room (a remnant from the damp problem)
  • persistent condensation

And currently being fixed…

  • a leaking roof at the lower part of the join with the neighbouring terrace

There’s an entry to come with some fascinating pictures of the state of the roof!

I definitely recommend getting a full structural survey when buying an older home but be aware even this isn’t going to catch everything.  In our case, we knew about the damp thanks to our suvey and negotiated the price of the house bearing in mind the cost of repairing it.  The bowed floorboards were apparent from walking on them.  However, although common sense will tell you that elements of the house are old and will need repair/replacement – there’s usually no accurate way to predict when this will occur.  Nearly every surveyor will tell you the roof will need replacing during your ownership of the property, but who really thinks they are going to need to do this?  After all, when you’re walking around your neighbourhood, it’s not like you routinely see houses having their roofs stripped back and replaced!

At present, though we are trying to save to renovate the Cloud, we very much feel like the house itself is dictating what to focus on next by its timely leaks/cracks/odd sounds.   It’s a struggle to do even the (previously thought) simple thing of keeping the place watertight.   My heart sinks when I hear the telltale tiny tap of a drip in the attic as I’m drifting off to sleep (this has happened more than once now!).   There are times when owning this old place is emotionally draining, so much time and money spent on the basics and we’re not even close to beginning on the aesthetics.

house pic

Now, don’t get me wrong – we knew that the high cost of houses in London was always going to mean a compromise, and in our case we got space at the cost of condition.  We really didn’t know what we were letting ourselves in for and with our limited knowledge and skill at all things home repair related, it would be fair to say the Cloud might not have been the best choice for us.   If we didn’t love the place so much, we might say the same!   We’re convinced it will all be worth it in the end though.

I think that’s the point I’m trying to make with this post.  You have to love the benefits that an old house brings in order for the drawbacks to be bearable.   Looking after an old house is a responsibility, as well as an investment that could take years to mature.  Every time I walk into my living room I can see in my mind what it will be like when we’re finally able to move on to decorative work and it gives me a great feeling.   That’s what keeps me smiling (despite the massive bill for repairing the hole in the roof…) and I know the journey will lead to a lovely house that we cherish.


Useful Links:

Good article in the Telegraph about the hidden costs of new and old homes – here

Overview of the vital considerations when buying an old building – here