Saturday, January 18, 2014

How To Make Restaurant Style Hot Wings At Home

Those of you who follow our blog know we occasionally stray from the usual remodeling tips & tricks and get a little crazy. Today is no different.

This weekend there is only one thing on my mind: Football, Hot Wings & Beer. 

I've got the football and beer parts taken care of but when it comes to wings, I'm pretty finicky. So finicky, in fact, that I started experimenting with making my own wings at home over the last couple of years. I've tried boiling, baking, broiling, frying.... but no matter what I did, they never came out as good as restaurant wings. Mine were always limp and lifeless, not crispy and delicious like the ones I got when I ordered out.

I had almost given up on trying to make my own wings until I discovered the "Double-Fry" method. It's pretty simple really but the results are spectacular! The trick is to fry the wings once at a lower temperature to cook them, let them cool in the refrigerator and then fry them again at a higher temperature to get them crispy.

Instead of babbling on about the process, I figured I'd just give the recipe & instructions and post a video of a batch I recently made. So, without further adieu....

Restaurant Style Hot Wings


Ingredients:
  • 1 bag Frozen chicken wing pieces
  • 1/2 cup Barbecue Sauce (I prefer Sweet Baby Ray's, great taste and comes in a lot of flavors)
  • 4 Tablespoons Horseradish Sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons Hot Sauce (Cholula is my personal favorite)
  • 2 Tablespoons Crushed Red Peppers
  • 1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic 

(For traditional "Buffalo Style" wings, mix 3 parts Frank's RedHot sauce with 1 part melted butter)

The "Double Fry" Method
  1. Fry for 18-20 minutes at 275° F
  2. Let cool in refrigerator for 30 minutes
  3. Fry again for 8 minutes at 400° F

Mix all ingredients together well, toss with wings in closed Tupperware container and serve. Enjoy with your favorite frosty beverage.






Thursday, December 12, 2013

POST or PERISH! Link Building Etiquette.

I love our blog.  Maybe it's the holidays that brings out the love in me.

I know, I know... maybe our blog isn't as slick and fancy as TMZ's website or have the kind of traffic Perez Hilton does but, we do alright.
We have literally tens of thousands of visitors and we continue to grow daily. The bigger our audience gets, the more comments we receive. In our case, the comments people submit get sent to a sort of "blog purgatory" to await moderation.  This just allows me to read and approve them before they are posted up, it helps keep the nonsense to a minimum. Some nonsense I like, but mostly from myself.

Some people like to ask questions, some like to say thanks for something they've learned but there are those who have a more devious intent. What's happened in recent years is that some SEO freaks (search engine optimization) have conjectured that using the comments section of ranking blogs to post their own websites and products could actually help their own search engine rankings. The sites and products are often posted in the form of links along with the comments, something a reader can click on which takes them to another web page.

Sometimes links can be useful

Whether links help them or not t is a different subject, what's interesting is the way people go about trying to get them past our moderation.
Now, I know that people are going to try to get things mentioned in there sometimes and I'm sure I've dropped my company name in certain online conversations so, I understand. I only ask that people read some of the article, maybe have something at least partially relevant to say and at the end of the day,  I will usually let the comment post.


There is only one simple statement provided on our blog to give them guidance:

"If you're planning on dropping a link, be thoughtful about your comment or it won't be posted."

The REAL fun is getting to read all of these comments and seeing the many different methods people utilize to get their brands or items mentioned. Let me show you what I mean.
Here was a comment submitted in response to an article we posted about Cool New Tools and Gadgets:

"Nice post with good Gadgets mentioned. Similar Gadgets and much more are also available at iGadgetech"

-Imran39's Blog


Not bad. This individual gave us a small compliment and posted their own link. It wasn't completely gratuitous so, I let that one post up. I have to admit, it may have been that little bit of brown-nosing at the beginning that helped get them through.

But sometimes we get comments like this one in the comments to our blog about sealing masonry:
   
"Interesting Blog!!! Keep up the good work. STONERA Systems – Sealers for Stone & Tile are proud Indian manufacturers that produce a variety of excellence sealing products to protect and enhance surfaces including natural stone, marbles & stone. Sealer for stone"-Chandra Dsp   



Um.... okay, so you already know I'm a sucker for a compliment but, seriously? A couple of nice words followed up by a paragraph about how wonderful your masonry sealer company is, links included?
Yeah, sorry. That's just a little too much SPAM for me.

But it gets worse, some people don't even bother trying to kiss up to me! (I know, right?)
Don't try coming to this party without bringing at least a bag of crappy chips or stale beers!
Take a look at this brazen party-crasher:

   
"Are you facing to plumbing problems?"
-Plumber Ipswich


How DARE you!  Trying to lure away my customer base without even so much as a nod or a handshake?! That's some double D size SPAMitude. 
You're are the Spamela Andersen of SPAM, mister 'Plumber Ipswich'.

Oh, and it doesn't stop there. These folks know more than one way to shish-kabob a kitten (I'm bad at euphemisms). Sometimes they attempt even more stealthy methods of getting their voices heard:

"How can i find remodel contractors ideas ,to make home look beautiful with bathroom remodeling, kitchen reconstruct etc.?"
-Mark Roger

This is the next level of sneakiness. Notice the words "remodel contractors" are a little different color? Well, that's because it was a link to a construction website and he's using those keywords in an effort to drive more traffic his way. He wants his company to show up in search engine results when people Google those terms. Does it work? Maybe or maybe not, but he broke the cardinal rule (no gratuitous compliments) and it looks like he didn't even read our blog.
(*Note: If you click it now it goes to our website. I wasn't going to give this guy any of my traffic. He didn't even bother to tell me how wonderful and awesome he thinks we are.)

That being said, THIS GUY's comment got posted:

"Great article! haha I love it. I'm not much of a do it myself kind of guy. I've been checking out  toilet repair in Prescott AZ so I don't have to be in the same room as that horrible smell! Thanks!!"
-Spencer Shawn


Yes,  'toilet repair in Prescott AZ' was a link to whatever lump of dog crap he wanted us to scoop up BUT.... he actually read the article about bathroom toilet repair and gave me a very nice compliment so...You're welcome, Spencer Shawn! (Does that name sound backwards to you too?)

Hey I have an idea, let's play a game. It's time for another stimulating round of.....  *trumpets playing*

Medieval trumpets

"POST or PERISH"


(I don't know how to make trumpets play in the background while I blog so, just make that sound your head like I did..... or you can click on the picture and magic will happen. Seriously. Try it.)

See if you can spot which of these posts had just enough of the right stuff to slip into our comments section and which ones were banished straight to the recycling bin with the rest of the trash.


Here's our first contender:
 
"Hey there! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about masonry in your area. I am glad to stop by your site and know more about masonry. Keep it up! This is a good read. You have such an interesting and informative page. I will be looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well. CMUs can be manufactured to provide a variety of surface appearances. They can be colored during manufacturing or stained or painted after installation. They can be split as part of the manufacturing process, giving the blocks a rough face replicating the appearance of natural stone, such as brownstone. CMUs may also be scored, ribbed, sandblasted, polished, striated (raked or brushed), include decorative aggregates, be allowed to slump in a controlled fashion during curing, or include several of these techniques in their manufacture to provide a decorative appearance. Whether you have a specific design in mind, or are just looking to spruce up your property in general"

-Jackie Champion


Did you guess PERISH? Yeah... I had to. Jackie started off with a lot of ass-kissing and boy, I sure was tempted. Unfortunately for Jackie, that full-on description of a product combined with sneaking in some links to boot proved to be his downfall. I believe there's such a thing as dropping a hint and then there's beating someone over the head repeatedly with it until they begin to make animal sounds.

Try this one:

"Can I just say what a relief to discover somebody that genuinely knows what they are discussing online. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people ought to read this and understand this side of your story. I was surprised you are not more popular given that you surely possess the gift. Wachovia 
Also see my website :: bad credit payday loans

-the guy


POST, right?..... nope, PERISH!

Seriously? Clearly 'the guy' didn't read my article. He doesn't even seem to know what the heck the article was about. He just a dropped slew of very vague references to the subject matter calling them "issues" and a very odd sentence about understanding 'this side of your story'.
What the hell? My side of the story... am I on trial here?
This wasn't testimony, it was an article about kitchen remodeling. If that wasn't weird enough, the bugger even had the chutzpah to say he's surprised we are NOT more popular?! How does HE know how popular WE are!!

He wraps it up with a lame link to his crappy 'bad credit payday loan' site!
Sorry, 'the guy'. Why don't you go post your comments to a more 'popular' blog that attracts bad credit laden jury members in need of a payday loan, you sonova...

*Deep breaths*....Sorry.

In contrast, here was a much more concise and relative question posted to what we wrote regarding tile installation:

"Can someone help me to discover more details about how to find a way to decorating my floor with tiles?"




tiles



You think we posted this one, right? Did you guess we also answered the question?

Well, you'd be CORRECT!
But, maybe not for the reason you might suspect. Forget the bad grammar, which sometimes gets a comment thrown out because it's too difficult to decipher ("find a way to decorating my floor"?.... yikes.)
See that massive space after his comment and at the bottom, just the word "tiles" underlined? Yup, you guessed it. That was the link to his own tile installation website. He not only tried to pass himself off as an innocent reader looking for some answers, but he conveniently posted a link to answer to his very own question. It's still a link to tile work, ours... not his.

That being said, I felt I had no choice but to post it up just so that I could respond to his request to 'help discover more details about decorating my floor with tile'


"Maybe try clicking the link you dropped into your comment? Yeah, I caught you."
-Daniel Batal


Oh, speaking of grammar, could someone help me with this one?

"I'm gladsome to mature so more serviceable and informative assemblage on your website.  
travertine flooring"
-Rafael Oliveira

I.... hold on... what?... Nope, I'm not even going to try to figure that one out.
PERISH.
One could argue that this might conflict with my decision to let a similar comment through. He left what I think was a nice compliment before his 'travertine flooring' link but, seriously... "Gladsome"? That word sounded too much like 'Flotsam' or 'Jetsam' and I'm not sure I actually know what those words mean either.

Okay, last one. POST or PERISH:
   
"Hey! I am glad to stop by your site and know more about kitchen remodeler. Keep it up! This is a good read. You have such an interesting and informative page. I will be looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about kitchen remodeler in your area. Granite, cherry, stainless, tile… so many options… 
we make it happen with you with a kitchen remodeler in Manchester"

-Jackie Champion
 


Alright, this person said some nice things and actually may have read at least some of the article...  tossed a small link in at the end... it kind of within the guidelines for getting posted so I guess it's... PERISH!

Did you NOT see the signature? It's our old pal Jackie again! You know, I'll give Jackie credit for not having the full paragraph of product description from the previous attempt but I KNEW that name looked familiar and let me just say; I'm onto you, Jackie... I'm onto you.

Well, there you have it. That's the ridiculous late night game I get to play except there aren't any cool prizes to take home, only the satisfaction of knowing I kept the internet a little more SPAM-free than I found it.

In case I made it seem as if  all blog comments are just people trying to sell or plug something, that's just not the case. Here's one from our Paint Color Ideas article just this past week:


"OMG.. this is wonderful. I always knew that Pottery Barn had a "look" but was hard pressed to translate it. And you use photos! Exactly what I needed (I'm a visual learner). Thank you for doing so! I'm painting my living room now (yes, 14 days before Xmas) and will follow every word!
Thank you Thank you Thank you"


Yup. That's what makes it all worthwhile.

Happy Holidays! ...(I'm watching you)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Brick Fix

Here's a simple and cost effective fix we came up with for a gnarly brick entrance!



Pay close attention because this goes by fast.
The customer wanted to find way to fix this crumbling front entrance and make it safe without breaking the bank. We decided our cheapest route was to repair what was there and then build over it with something that was a little more pleasing to the eye.
Sometimes you have to be creative in order to get a little more lifespan out of what you have.

Be sure to keep up with our other renovation projects at FocalpointRenovations.com.


Enjoy!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

How To Pull A Nail

I know what you're thinking, "Oh come on, this is common sense! I don't need some supposed expert contractor to teach me how to pull a nail out of a piece of wood! I'm missing Rosie O'Donnell's latest puppy picture tweets for this??"

Well, you'd be right. It isn't rocket surgery... or brain science, or ... whichever dyslexic analogy you prefer to use but my point is this:  Most people do it backwards.

Let me explain:
Here is an innocent piece of pine baseboard trim that was removed with the finish nails still attached.


I have to admit, just looking at that picture makes my feet hurt. I'm surprised I was able to capture that image without somehow stepping on it and puncturing through my work boots. One would think I have magnetic soles with my impalement history.
In any case, what most people do when they want to remove these nails is to pull out a hammer and bang the nails back out. Kind of makes sense, they were hammered in so doing the opposite would be the best way to get them back out, right?

WRONG!

This is what happens when you hammer them back out

Focalpoint Renovations

See how the wood around the nail head has exploded outward as the head of the nail pushes back through? This happens because wood is porous. It has an inherent moisture content and when the head of the nail passes into it, the wood itself constricts and closes back around the head of the nail. Adding moisture laden products such wood filler for the nail holes and paint afterwards only makes it worse when you try to remove nails using this method.


Here is the CORRECT way to remove those pesky nails

Place the board face down on a clean surface that won't scar it and get yourself a pair of pliers or nippers. My personal favorites for this application are called Bullnose Dykes (It's okay to laugh, the name would make even Rosie O'Donnell giggle).

Here's what mine look like, all rusty and abused.

Focalpoint Renovations

They have a rounded face and sharp teeth (much like Rosie O'Donnell) perfect for grasping a nail shank.

Now, if any of you have ever seen Clint Eastwood in Two Mules for Sister Sarah or any Rambo-style action movie where someone was impaled with an arrow or similarly shaped instrument of doom, you'll probably remember what inevitably has to happen...

{{{ WARNING: SPOILER ALERT  }}} 

Right...You have to pull it through.

This is exactly what you want to do with a finish nail. Grasp the nail tightly and apply pressure against the surface of the wood where it penetrates. What you want to do is use the rounded face of the dykes to roll and pull the nail through the trim board until it comes out the back side.
I will now attempt to use a series of pictures to demonstrate how that is done. (view very slowly, I need to go get another cup of coffee)

Focalpoint Renovations



If done correctly, when the board is turned over, this is what you'll see...






An old piece of  painted wood with a stain on it! 

Well...yeah but, I mean there are no visible marks from the nail being removed. In fact, you can still see the the dimples from the nail filler and paint as if the nails were still in the board. Pretty nifty, huh?
As always, there are a couple of things I should mention so read the disclaimers carefully.

Disclaimer #1:
This method doesn't work with framing nails or those with large heads (*ahem*....Rosie O'Donnell) but it's your safest bet when removing finish nails from door & window casing, baseboards or any moulding/trim boards that you plan on re-installing.

Disclaimer #2:
Rosie O'Donnell is a wonderful and talented individual. Any references to her were purely to make pulling a nail more interesting than, um.... pulling a nail.
Be sure to catch her cinematic genius in such films as Another Stakeout.

Disclaimer #3:
Before anyone dissects my analogy, if you are ever shot with an arrow? Don't pull it through. Also, don't pull it out. Call 911 immediately and seek emergency medical assistance... unless of course you are Rosie O'Donnell in which case, pull it through with your teeth.


Oh, and always remember...  If you hate it? RENOVATE it!













Sunday, May 19, 2013

2 For You! Possibly Our Greatest Promotion Ever!


Possibly Our Greatest Promotion Ever!

Any existing Focalpoint Customer who refers a NEW customer to us is eligible for 2% of the total contract price for the new work referred.

Here are the rules:
-Only one eligible recipient per new contract work order 
-Can't be combined with any other offers
-Percentage awarded at completion of new project
-All payments made in the form of pre-paid VISA gift card
-Recipient must sign Proof of Delivery form upon delivery of payment
-Focalpoint Renovations reserves the right to deny any promotional claims deemed fraudulent

Visit us online at www.focalpointrenovations.com for more information or to contact us about this promotion

Monday, January 14, 2013

5 Cool New Tools You Probably Don't Have

     As a contractor, I'm always keeping an eye out for new things on the market. Usually, I try to find stuff to make my job a little easier, sometimes I just like finding things that I'm surprised nobody thought of sooner. In that quest, I've found a few new toys that you may or may not have seen.
Here they are in no particular order and all of the titles are clickable links if you want to learn more:

1: Homax Tarp Clips

     Anyone who's ever thrown a blue tarp over the bed of a truck or a trailer knows that those preset eyelets just never seem to be in the right location for securing it once it's in place. Either that or they've completely blown out from so many uses. This little handy clip from Homax allows you to grab any part of a tarp, bite down on it like a gator and bungee it to.... well, whatever you feel like bungeeing..... bungying? bungening... um, hooking it on to.

2. Spyder Jigsaw Blades


     This double sided blade makes your average jigsaw perform like a scroll saw. The toothed back side of the blade removes material behind it allowing the blade to move through tight patterns without binding up. It can also cut in reverse. This allows not only for much tighter turns and cuts, but for a much cleaner cut which doesn't require nearly as much sanding.


3. Board Buddies


     Kickbacks aren't just for politicians and sometimes they can be downright dangerous (ask the tip of my thumb, it lost an argument with a table saw two years ago). These anti-kickback, hold down rollers attach easily onto your table saw fence for added protection. Anyone who has ever had a saw spit a piece back at them can tell you: When it's you vs. the saw..... the saw usually wins.

4. Point-N-Measure Digital Tape Measure


     Digital tape measures have been around for a while but this one is cool because it measures up to 50 feet and the price tag is only around $20.00. Also, this little puppy does the math for you. It calculates volume & area in square footage or cubic feet.

5. The Versacut


     This is a simple idea but may possibly be the most versatile saw ever. The Versacut saw utilizes multiple types of blades and comes with three: A 24T Carbide Tip blade for wood, a 44T HSS blade for cutting through aluminum and thin metal sheets and a diamond tip blade for cutting ceramic tile and cement. Try that with your ordinary circular saw.

Wow, is that five already? Geez! Ah hell, I'm adding one more. It's my blog and I can do what I want... you're not the boss of me.

6. KG's Boot Guard






     Okay, so technically this isn't a tool but boots are one of the most important things a contractor can own. In my own experience, the first thing that goes on mine is the toe. I'm always kneeling down, bent over or somehow scraping the toe of my boots along the ground. Inevitably they get worn through a lot faster than the rest of the boot, especially when I'm wearing steel-toed boots.
     This magic elixir will extend the life of your boots by adding a layers of protection to your boot tips. The applicator can be cleaned with mineral spirits for future applications (1 bottle typically can handle three pairs of boots).

     And there you go! My 2013 list of top 5 6 cool tools you probably don't have. Know of some other cool ones? Drop me a line at Focalpoint Renovations or leave a link here in the comments.

As always, I'm Daniel and I'm a general contractor! <---- And wouldn't you guess it? That's STILL a link!

Cheers!




Saturday, January 12, 2013

Evolution of a Fireplace

Kick that cobblestone to the curb! Our latest renovation included turning a cobblestone fireplace into something even cooler.