Thursday, June 27, 2013

Garage Sale Tips

I've been slowly working on a few projects around the house, including continuing to purge our house of unused, unneeded items. I decided that a tag sale would be a great way to rid myself of excess and make some money to fund future improvements. I'll get to that soon I hope. In the mean time I'll share my techniques for a successful sale.

I started by collecting items in a designated area. I systematically go through drawers, cabinets, closets, storage areas etc. I create 2 piles things I actually use, and things I don't. Be brutal, eliminate duplicates, broken, and anything unused in the last year. Do you need 2 spatulas? I do. Do you need 2 pastry cutters? I don't. Do you need 4 round cake pans? I don't. Do you need 4 9x13 pans? I do. Obviously your answers will be different than mine, that's OK as long as you say no and not just yes.

To your friends and family they may have items to add to your sale, they may volunteer to help set up, or sit with you, or even better yet they might want to buy your stuff!

Find a place to hold your sale. If you live in a remote location you will need to spend a lot more effort marketing than you would have to elsewhere. My house is in town with easy access from main roads.

When, is as important as where. Here we have an annual city wide sale that sees lots of people in town shopping and an organized list of sales to visit. Around here, it is also common for sales to end before most people finish work, so staying open late will allow for more people to shop.

You don't want to go through all the effort and have nobody come. Signs should be large with large letters and few words. They should be placed on busy roads and at constant intervals. Every turn needs to be marked and if the straight drive is long extra signs are need to encourage prospective buyers to keep coming. Post images on Craigslist and Facebook, run a classified ad. drop flyers at other nearby sales and agree to send people back and forth.

I couldn't believe how many people exclaimed in surprise how organized my sale was. Think about how your local big box store is arranged, you have a similar level of variety, so use their market research to your advantage. Make a clothing area, kitchen, decor, man stuff, sports, toys, books, clothes should be sorted by sized and well labeled with signs. Few people are willing to dig through stacks of clothes hoping to find the Holy Grail (stylish and correct size). Increase your customer base! Fold things neatly and refold throughout the sale. There is a reason clothing store workers are constantly folding and sorting by size. It works!

Unless you have extra helpers that will sit at a checkout table at all times (that isn't practical for me) use a 3 pocket apron instead of a cash box. 1 pocket for $1, a pocket for quarters/change, and a pocket for larger bills. Since the apron is always on, you can't be distracted while a partner swipes money from the cash box. It happens a lot, and is a valid concern. I keep my ones separate so that I don't accidentally give $10 in change when I meant to give $1. Know your bottom dollar. People will negotiate on prices be ready to counter or accept. Be sure to have $30-50 to start so you can make change. If making change scares you, keep a calculator handy. The easiest way to make change is to count it back to the customer. If the total is $13.25 and they hand you a $20 you will give them $.75, $1, and $5.

+    .75
+  1.00
+  5.00

Since you have your money in your apron, there is no need to sit when customers arrive. Get on your feet, greet them, ask them if they are looking for something specific. I would hate for them to miss it, or they might be looking for something that I had intended to sell, but forgot to bring out. Engaging them in conversation will keep them looking for a longer period, making them more likely to make a purchase. It also has the added benefit of meeting new people in your community. Being on your feet will also help you spy items that didn't get prices, or need rearranging to appeal to the buyers.

Hopefully, after all your hard work, there isn't much left to clean up. box up all the items you want to donate, be sure to get a receipt for your taxes. Any remaining item should be listed for sale on a sight such as craigslist, and left in the garage until gone. Once something is removed from the house for sale, it shouldn't be brought back in, or it will go right back were you found it, only to be hauled out again in a couple of years when you do this again.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Best Rhubarb Pie - Ever

You've read about my love affair with rhubarb, but I have yet to share a pie recipe with you. That is because I have been tweaking. I like a pie that isn't too liquidy, over seasoned, too bitter, or even too sweet.

There are lots of recipes out there, and through a grueling taste testing process I've perfected it. When it comes to pie, the crust is as important as the filling. I have been using this recipe from Martha Stewart for 15 years for all my pie crust needs (Savory and sweet). If you choose this route and use a standard glass Pyrex pie plate follow the recipe exactly. If you want to use a store bought crust, or are using a smaller tin or aluminum pan, reduce the amount of Rhubarb to 3 cups or your filling will overflow and make a giant mess in the oven.

Here it is:
4 Cups fresh rhubarb, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
2 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon corn starch
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1 unbaked pie shell

In a bowl mix rhubarb, flour and corn starch until well coated. In a separate bowl mix eggs, sugar, butter, and nutmeg and pour over rhubarb. Mix Well. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Cover with a prepared pie crust. Remember to cut a vent hole in the top. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and make an additional 55 minutes. (45 for a smaller pan)

This recipe makes 1 pie, but can easily be doubled.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

By the Yard.. err Foot

Like most gardeners I am always trying new things. In addition to growing different veggies to see how they grow, and how they are received at the table; I also get creative with my planting scheme. Since I have a city garden and don't really want to sacrifice a large chunk of my yard, it is important to plan carefully to maximize the space.

I've been reading about a concept called square foot gardening. It challenges the traditional row planting, arguing that by planting in a grid formation, space is optimized allowing for a much higher produce yield.

Last year I was busy with other things and so I instead of measuring out the grid I used the highly scientific eyeball method. It kind of worked. I was able to increase the variety of my plantings while still getting extra tomato plants in.

This year I took it to the next level, I made templates! Using a scrap piece of plywood, cut one foot squares. Measure out standard planting grids. 16/9/4/2/1 (I combined 2 and 1 and made a single square with 3.) After drawing grid. I used a hole kit to drill large holes to plant through.

My thumbs didn't turn green, but some of my nails did.

 If you want to try, this website lists how many seeds per sqft for any given vegetable. As well as lots of tips on planning.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Up on the Shelves

Yep, I'm a tortoise.. I'm not talking about my tough exterior, or my penchant for vegetables, or thick legs that keep me balanced, it's about my not so lighting fast speed.

Three months after camouflaging my bathroom walls. I have finally started adding some wall decor.

Ana White via YHL shared plans for floating shelves that could easily be customized. I have some skills gleaned from decades of watching home improvement shows, but me best asset is a Father-in-law who has hands on experience, a plethora of tools at his disposal, and seems to enjoy me sharing blueprints with him!

He built them per Anna's excellent plans and customized to my designated length/width. I even got him to help with installation! One side was securely fastened to a stud and the other with a wall anchor. Preferably they would have both been fastened to studs, but with most home improvements, you work with what you've got.

After he installed the boards, I primed and painted the shelves that slipped over the boards.

I am glad too have some storage space again. I don't need a lot in this bathroom, so the baskets teamed with the open shelving works for us.

I'm still on the lookout for a cute way to hang the girls hooded towels and one more piece of art and a way to add some fun color.

I started with the yellow showed curtain, but found some dark pink hand towels at a couldn't be beat price. (They paid me to buy them) so now I'm thinking I'll embrace more of a kid friendly rainbow of colors hey it's their bathroom mainly so why not?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Confession of a White Flour Addict

If my collection of flour on my counter top hadn't given me up, Then perhaps the Kitchenaid mixer did. If you were too busy eating freshly baked goods to notice, that's fine with me.

If however, you are only reading to see my weaknesses so that you can feel superior, today is your lucky day!

My name is Cindy and I have an entire drawer in my kitchen dedicated to cookie cutters. (I also have an entire cupboard filled with cake decorating tools.)

So thank you friends and family for sacrificing your thighs, bellies, etc.

If you are wondering, I use a recipe from an old Sesame Street Library book. I'm not sure which volume. But I scanned an image of mine for you to reference.

If you are unable to view the recipe here is a not as pretty version:

"Cookie Monster's Famous Cookie Dough"
Here Is What You Need:
(1)A Medium Sized Mixing Bowl
(2)Measuring Cup And Spoons
(3)A Fork

(1)Butter Or Margarine(Soft,But Not Melted)
(4)All-purpose flour
(5)Baking powder

What to do make the dough:
(1)Put 3/4 cup of butter or margarine(that's a stick and a half)into your mixing bowl.
(2)Measure 1 cup of sugar.
(3)Pour sugar over butter
(4)With a fork,squash butter and sugar together until they are blended.
(5)Crack shells of 2 eggs and pour eggs over mixture in bowl.
(6)Measure 1 teaspoon vanilla and pour over mixture.
(7)With fork,blend everything in the bowl together.
(8)Measure 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour and pour over mixture in bowl.
(9)Measure 1 teaspoon baking powder and sprinkle over flour.
(10)Measure 1 teaspoon salt and sprinkle over flour and baking powder.
(11)Mix everthing together either with the fork or with your hands.
(12)Put dough in icebox to chill (at least one hour).

After chilling the dough, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness, cut your cookies, bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Fun With the Kids

Meeting Llama Llama!
Memorial day is over and school is finally out. We are looking forward to a busy summer of free family fun. I start by looking at community events calendars, and at the local library and I follow all our favorite haunts on Facebook so that I see any promotions.

Or summer social calendar is quickly filling up. We've already been to a parade, made trips to zoo and had a picnic in the park.

Our library has weekly events throughout the year, but they kick it up during the summer. Comedians, puppets, movies, contests, reading incentives, fairy gardens, and a pizza party. Don't forget they also have books, DVD's, magazines, computers, air conditioning, and WiFi!

If you live in the Princeton area here are a few of the events on my radar for the next few weeks.

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