Saturday, May 29, 2010

How to have a great garage sale

'Tis the season for garage sales galore! I love them, and have found some really great stuff on only my second weekend out. I can't stop at all of them, unfortunately, but some attract my attention more than others. As a lover of sales, I can tell you the top things that irritate me to no end when I'm looking for the good ones.

  • Everyone loves a sign that is bright and gets your attention. Not a piece of soggy cardboard with something written in pencil that no one can see. 
  • Make signs big, not the size of a postage stamp. Think about who's going to see it and how. There is nothing worse than a potentially great sale that has a sign that is illegible or so small you can't even see it. If you live on a busy road, how are people going 55 going to see your sign? You don't want to obstruct anyone's vision, but it should be bigger than an 8x10 piece of paper, at least. Do them on the computer, even, in a nice big, clear font. Post them at busy intersections where people are likely to see them when stopped for traffic lights! 
  • I saw a couple today that were written not only very small, but posted down low to the ground. Invest a couple bucks and buy a wire sign frame from Home Depot to make your sign stand out!
  • Take your signs down when it's over! Half the signs I saw today were for sales that are already done. When we had ours, our top priority after the sale ended was to take down those signs, not only because I don't want people stopping at our house, but because it's so frustrating to reach a place and not see anything at all. Last weekend we drove by on two separate days to a sale advertised heavily with signs, only to find everything locked up tighter than a drum. If you can't have the sale, at least take down your signs anyway. 
Other ideas:
  • If you can, put your stuff out where people can see it. I've driven by quite a few because I can't really see what all they have, if everything is tucked away in the garage. Bring out the cool stuff to entice your visitors!
  • If it's not really "huge," please don't say it is. I've seen a couple that were "huge," according to the sign, and were nothing more than two tables of knick-knacks and not much else. If you live in a neighborhood, ask your neighbors to contribute and you can split the money. Somewhere I read about a few families who had a neighborhood sale and then used the money to have a block party. How fun is that?!
  • Donate your proceeds. Nothing attracts people faster than a group of Girl Scouts having a sale to pay for a class trip, etc. 
  • Don't make your prices too high. Some people seem to think they're going to get $5 for that used pair of fingernail clippers, which puzzles me. This is a garage sale - not Walmart. People are looking for deals - so be willing to negotiate. 
  • Most of all, have fun! Sometimes it's just as much fun to have a sale as it is to go to one, as long as you have the right company. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

From the Recipe Box: Chocolate Chip Muffins

I would love to be one of those women who bravely lets her children cook and experiment with her in the kitchen. Unfortunately my kids fight like cats and dogs with each other when the time comes to cook, so I usually secretly slip away to stir up a batch of cookies or pizza.

My oldest was off from school yesterday so I decided we were going to take the plunge and make chocolate chip muffins. They got the idea a few days ago after breaking into a bag of chips, sneaking handfuls of them upstairs with sweaty palms. Blech. So I dug up a recipe that didn't require too many fancy ingredients and endured the sibling rivalry for a little cooking lesson.

The first thing I usually remind them when cooking is: "If you have to cough or sneeze, do NOT do it on the food!" I want them to learn how to cook and enjoy it, but consider this a first-and-foremost rule of thumb. Aside from the usual bickering over who got to measure what and who pours this, it went fairly well and was a pretty kid-friendly recipe.

We doubled the recipe, and the only changes I made were inadvertently adding an additional 1/3 cup of milk as well as adding about two teaspoons of vanilla, at the suggestion of another reviewer. It turned out just fine with the extra milk, and not biscuity at all, as someone else suggested. I also added regular-sized chips rather than the miniature ones, and they turned out just fine. Not too much, and perhaps could have added a little more. (I put in about 3/4 of a bag.) I would probably add an entire bag, if I make this again.

One reviewer added an additional 1/4 cup of milk plus vanilla chips, so I guess my accidental addition of milk was not much of an error. Perhaps this takes care of the biscuity taste some people noticed.

Chocolate Chip Muffins, submitted by Lori Thompson

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Ready in: 35 minutes
Serves: 12

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup miniature chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the first four ingredients. In a small bowl, beat egg, milk and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

I found this recipe here .