January 30, 2013

Easy Fried Chicken for a Picnic


I love fried chicken.

I would say that it is one of my favorite things in the entire world.

I like it with mashed potatoes, I like it dipped in honey, and I like it just plain.

It is really hard to find good fried chicken - particularly since I only like breasts.  Even more sad is that I really like KFC fried chicken (from before I truly realized how nasty factory farmed meat was).

I found my recipe.  Even my tennessee husband thinks it rocks.

Only bummer is that you have to plan in advance for this one - the buttermilk soak is critical.

This is my take on Alton Brown's Fried chicken reciepe.

It is REALLY easy to adjust for size - just use more chicken and flour :)  You can use bone in meat as well - don't change a thing.

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
Peanut Oil
Cajun Seasoning
Salt Pepper

Take 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts and cut them into thirds.
Lay in a shallow baking dish and cover in buttermilk - let soak for 12-24 hours - the longer the better.
1 hour before cooking - take chicken out of fridge to come closer to room temperature.
In a cast iron skillet, heat peanut oil to 325 degrees (use a thermometer - this is critical).
While oil is heating, mix flour, a good bit of tony chachares cajun seasoning, salt and pepper.
drain off the buttermilk from the chicken and salt, pepper, and sprinke cajun seasoning on it.
Dredge the chicken pieces into the flour mixture.
Set in the oil and let cook for 10-12 minutes each side.  DO NOT MOVE the chicken or check it.
When each piece is done cooking, set out on a rack to cool.

It is fantastic hot and even better the next day, cold, at the beach :)

January 25, 2013

Au Pair Room / Basement Remodel Take 2

As both my boys snore in my bed, I'm awake at 4am again.  I've had a cold plus I'm 32 weeks pregnant which means mama goes to bed at 8pm - then the boys find there way in there and T takes turns rolling between me and bubbs cuddling.  It gets awfully hot in bed with three of us and I'm a little concerned what we're going to do when the baby comes.


Our rumpus room was initial built so Bubbs could have a music room to play guitar in while T was asleep, as a guest room, and a general storage area for our family.

When we bought the house it was a garage, plain and simple.  The original 1948 gravity heaters were in place as well as some 10-15 year old water heaters.  They took up the majority of the space.  There were also cracked sinks, broken doors, funky work benches, and a creepy room we hear from the neighbors was a recording studio.



We upgraded the furnaces and water heaters, made the windows bigger, added a real door and sheet rocked the garage.  We had some cabinets built to store all of our junk plus the stackable washer and dryer and added some ikea doors to hide it all.



Some of this happened there:

We had a place for our 1000+ records to be stored (and played)...

Our Manstad sofa bed did its job for lots of folks hosting grandparents for overnight stays:

And our storage, well, it stored a lot of baby junk (that now lives upstairs in our house):


I think we'll be done today - with construction - of the Au Pair's room.  The laundry is now out in the main part of the garage (excuse the mess) - can you see it on the left side of the photo?  I'm actually thrilled to have it in a more easily accessible place.  Carrying loads of laundry through four sets of doors is annoying - now I only have two to fight with while I bring it up and down the stairs.


We had the plumber do hookups for a small kitchen while the walls were open so eventually this could become a little inlaw unit that either inlaws actually live in or we use as a guest suite once again.

When you walk into the room, what used to be a large open space with a huge beam in the middle, is now an L shaped room with a small bathroom to the left.  I wanted them to incorporate the beam into the wall as much as possible.  The crazy thing is that the room seems just as big now as it did with the beam there b/c that thing made it impossible to use the entire room in a cohesive way.


This is the old space...(in the middle of our last round of construction):

Same angle now (in the middle of construction):
(you are looking into the bathroom from the Au Pair's bedroom, and through it to the hallway which allows us to still access the backyard).


The flooring didn't turn out so bad for 99c a sq foot!  We might use it in the river house if we get totally desperate and run out of money.

There's a tiny corner shower - and two doors to this room.  One that leads into the bedroom, and one that leads into the hall. 

Since our Au Pair needs a private place to live, had we not created a hallway and added a new door to the backyard, we would be in for a year of no backyard access.  And while we use it pretty infrequently, there are a few days a year that we love it out there.  Plus, T really wants to paint.  And he's SO not doing it in the house.


I think her bed will go here (I scored a great frame off Craigslist last weekend) with our old side tables and lamps beside it.

And in this mess of furniture and storage, we'll add a small loveseat, desk, TV and a microwave and mini fridge.

(what the area looks like minus the storage :)

Here's our hallway with our door to the backyard.

Don't worry, they are creating steps for us...and a cat door for the cats...

And this is her door to the backyard  - that will only be accessible by our Au Pair.

I'm exciting to get all the furniture in place and get construction out of our hair (and that damn dust out of my house).

Since we now don't have a guest room, our guests will have to come visit and stay at my mom's (upstairs) or visit us in the riverhouse :)  In the meantime, we have tentative plans for my best friend to come up from LA to stay in our room before the Au Pair arrives so a deadline is fast approaching...

Most people are out buying cribs or clothes for their new baby - our big purchase was building a bathroom for our Au Pair.  She comes in 5 weeks!

January 22, 2013

How ugly can sheet vinyl be?

Our Au Pair arrives in just over a month.

Since we have a tiny flat and one bathroom, we're building her a small bathroom of her own in the rumpus room.  Photos to come.  The room is so small the photos I have taken make no sense b/c I can't get a good angle.

This is not a project I'm excited about.  There's hardly any DIY aspect to it, I wanted all the fixtures to be white, we have no money for it, so I wanted the best low grade fixtures we could get.  So much of the cost is going to framing, plumbing, etc, that there is no money left for pretty stuff.

Anyway, yesterday, when we were downstairs looking at the work, Bubbs said, "did you pick out this flooring?"



Rolled up on the floor was something that looked similar to brown 70's square linoleum.

When I told our contractor as we began the project, "cheap flooring - the most boring linoleum you can find."  He did it.

I immediately emailed him and asked how much flooring he needed because that wasn't quite what I had in mind.

He told me that his options were black and white tile, lavendar, or the brown squares - so he went with that since it was the most "solid."  Which makes TOTAL sense.

I don't blame him at all for this.

Anyway - I went on homedepot's website to find something less offensive and came up with only one option that was actually "in-store" for immediate pick up.

Thank goodness for patient, kind, and no-attitude contractors.

As I surfed the internet in a flurry (can you do that), I was playing with the idea of having him lay the ugly stuff.  He already had it, he had done the pre-work for it (cut it to size, etc), and then we could find something we really like to lay on top of it when we were ready.

But, I have 1900 square feet of Riverhouse to work on - and I care more about that. I'm not going to see this bathroom for the next 18 months, most likely.  Our Au Pair will have sole use of it.  (I just realized at some point I'm going to have an 18 month old again - oh no).

So the Vinyl tile was 99 cents a sq foot, it is not offensive, and hopefully won't cost us too much more in labor.  Plus, when I'm done paying a TON of money for a project I won't get to use - I want it to be done.  I don't want to have to lay flooring and re-cut baseboards or molding.  I want to walk away and get to decorate the bedroom attached.

So, long story short, the tile goes in tomorrow, along with the shower - and I think the other fixtures as well.  We should have the room by the end of the week.

January 20, 2013

On having two boys

I'm going to be the mom of boys.

Only boys.

This is it for us - I wont do pregnancy again, and Bubbs and I are just too sensitive and enjoy adult life just a little too much to go through infancy after this round.  We believe really strongly in attachment parenting, but that stuff will suck the life right out of you, so once this sacrifice is over, I look forward to enjoying my kids and my life.

Yesterday I went grocery shopping while the boys played at home (well, Bubbs and T) and listened to Rent in the car.  The musical. 

I'm a little sad I won't get to listen with my daughter someday.  Not that the lyrics are appropriate for anyone under 16.  My brother is straight and loves musicals and gets the same joy out of them as I do.   So what's the deal?

I'm a feminist and live in San Francisco.  I get that either of my sons could LOVE musicals, they could be gay or straight, or one day they could reveal that they are actually women, or want to dress as women, or numerous other things.  They could be republicans, or salesmen, or nudists.  I know I have no control over what they like and who they are, but for some reason, despite all my years of gender studies, I feel like a daughter would be different than a son.

As I prepare to only have boys and as I wait to meet my last child, I'm really starting to wonder why I'm mourning not having a girl (and by mourning, I mean I got a little sad about it for 10 minutes yesterday).

I think most people would consider me a tomboy.  In fact, I actually had a "friend" tell me once in college that she thought my college boyfriend might be gay, but that she thought it might work out because I'm kinda "boyish." (Yeah - WTF?!).  I was never really taught femininity nor do I value it the way a lot of people do.  Plus, since I've had kids, my weight is up, I don't feel pretty, so I'm not going to waste the time on it all until I feel "normal" again.   I'd rather spend my money on experiences and my house than my appearance.  I always think that if I had more money I would spend more time and energy on feminine things, but I'm not sure that's the case.  So, based on all of this, its not like I want to play princess with a little girl.

I am really good at french braiding (is that even relevant now that the 90s are over?),
Girl Clothes are WAY more interesting than boy clothes,
I could teach my little girl things my mom didn't teach me,
I'm really good at planning events and I want to help plan a wedding.

I wonder if the role I play in my sons' life will be that of a "mother" and not that of a person.  Does that make sense? 
Will they care about my life path and how I got where I am? 
Will I ever get to share secrets with them about life? 

There are secrets I'd share with a daughter that I'm not sure I would share with a son.  Secrets about life that I've learned that are only fair to give to your daughter, but not fair expectations to put on your son's mate.  Sexist, yes. 

I also feel like being pregnant, a mother, and a wife have been experiences that have forever changed me, in fantastic ways.  I'm not sure if my boys will ever care.  Will they find strength or think I'm cool b/c I pushed them out at home with no drugs? 

I suppose maybe a daughter wouldn't care either.  But the chances she wants to read about my pregnancy are higher than the chances my son will, right?

Anyway - I still feel great about having two boys.  I can't fail them in not teaching them about moisturizing and waxing.   They will grow up probably appreciating women with normal bodies and who don't wear make up.  They will hopefully share their secrets with each other and in my wildest dreams they are actually friends - though I know that is asking a lot.

Logistically, this works too.  They can share a room longer, wear the same clothes (poor baby D all hand me downs for him) until they start having opinions, you know - that kind of stuff.  Dealing with teenaged girls scares me to death. 

And, my husband still loves his mama in a way that warms my heart - that is different than the way a girl loves her mom, I think.

Both my boys are wanted and loved, already.  Just to be clear.

January 11, 2013

Major Fixer Upper - Picking a Contractor and Surprises Under the Rug!

Our riverhouse need significant work.  SIGNIFICANT.

Lemme just say, I'm super excited.  Can't wait to start using it.   Can't wait.

It is sort of falling down and has holes in it.  It has an electrical panel that was recalled in the 70's because it blew up. It is on a hill in a forest.

There are drop ceilings that squirrels live in.

Some of the work we can do ourselves, but a good bit of it is WAY beyond our abilities.   Plus, I'm 400 weeks pregnant which makes it difficult for me to be involved in tearing down asbestos ceilings and stuff.

Anyway - we have a couple contractors we've met with.

Contractor 1: He came and bid on the project when we were doing inspections.  His bid helped us decide to buy the place.  He gave a lot of free time to the project, advice, and was overall really great to work with.   Found him in the yellow pages.  References say he's expensive but does truly the best in town.  Some people said you have to chase him down a bit or be firm with him on some things.  One reference of similar work, others are medium to large remodels.

Contractor 2: Refered to us by the septic guy that everyone said was great.  Good personality, good listener, great salesman.  References love him and say he does a great job - all references were for jobs that are similar to the one we're doing.  Mostly on-time and mostly under or on budget (or over by $2,000 or so).

Contractor 3: Referred by a family friend.  Not a great listener (I felt like he was ignoring me during walk through).  References love him, but only gave references for smaller jobs than what we're doing.  Bid was 100,000 over our budget (that we gave him).  That only includes the things we NEED done - and we don't even have a real idea of the structural work that needs to be done.

So far, we only have quotes in from Contractor 3.  Contractor 1 said he'd get us a quote by today and Contractor 2 says sometime next week hopefully.

We went up this weekend to meet with a chimeny sweep and inspector to see if we could use the fireplace without burning the place down.  Long story short on that one is that we don't know yet - he said the roof seemed really unstable and had to get a smaller person to do the inspection.  We should know in the next few days.

It was 32 degrees up there this weekend.


We prepared well though - brought a sleeping bag for the little guy, mittens, and triple layers (not that he would wear or use any of them).


We also brought his magnetic play sets (he calls them his maps), musical instruments, and a "classic" sesame street DVD.  He VERY rarely gets to watch TV, so we knew if we had to be distracted for awhile, we could trust him to stay put if we put a DVD on the computer.


It worked.

Though we did have MAJOR freakout tantrum when it was time to leave - which we have probably had three of in all of his 2.5 years.  Goes to show that TV is not good for our life.

He also ate an entire adult sized lunch once we left - so he was hungry and on big bird withdrawal.  Not a good combination.

While he was watching TV in a sunbeam, I was talking with the chimney sweep/doing nothing but being pregnant, and Bubbs was checking out under the nasty carpet in the living room.


You can see a little rectangle of dark wood there.  We were hoping that is what we'd find under the entire carpet (we had pulled up  a small area during inspections.

But, as things tend to go with this house, that was So not the case.

Telltale termite pellets  in a few boards (luckily, just a few small areas).

It appears that they painted yellow around a rug in the living room as well and didn't clean up liquid spills very quickly.

We also found some interesting linoleum tiles that had been carpeted over.
All of this "bad" floor news? This is actually good news for me.

I think if we had beautiful floors, the other partners would have wanted to refinish which to me means big buck PLUS the room would be ALL wood - floors, ceilings, and walls.  Now, we get to whitewash the floors - which will add SO much light to the room.

Aren't these pretty?

Source: via Mama on Pinterest

Other exciting news:

Our lemon tree is ROCKIN.

This pretty little flower was blooming away:
Pink gardenia maybe?

Plus, when you actually have chairs in a house, you can find out that the views are better than you thought.