Archive | June, 2011

Realist Mom’s Garage Sale Tips (or, how not to have a garage sale induced anxiety attack)

28 Jun

First, let me apologize for being away for so long. Between my eldest’s elementary graduation and then getting her off to camp and the general insanity that comes with end of school/beginning of summer – let’s just say it’s been crazy here.

So – I had my garage sale. And it went really well. Yes, I made some money and cleared out a bunch of stuff that’s been taking up so much space in our home. Most importantly, I didn’t have a nervous breakdown. For those of us that really don’t enjoy having strangers sift through our belongings, that’s HUGE.

There are many many places on the internet that will give you all sorts of tips on how to prepare, organize and promote your garage sale. I looked at a lot of them. And they were all helpful. But. (Doesn’t Dr. Phil say that when you say “but” you negate everything that came before it? I think so. That’s not my intention.) I think there are some things that those articles don’t quite cover. For example, how DO you deal with the creepy guy strolling around your garage holding one sundae glass? For thirty minutes.

Allow me to present Realist Mom’s Garage Sale Tips:

1. Be ready to let the stuff go. This is important. If you’re not quite sure whether you’re ready to get rid of Aunt Fanny’s old skillet – do not put it out there. It will only make you crazy and upset. And you’ll secretly dislike anyone who even picks it up.

2. Do not, I repeat do not have a garage sale a few days before another momentous event in your life. Or just after. Going through my daughter’s baby and toddler clothes just before she graduated was a bad idea. I was sobbing into the Rubbermaid bins. It also took me twice as long to sort through things because I was hugging almost every garment. And, if you really must know, I snatched a pair of socks out of the hand of a woman who was preparing to buy them. What? They were Kitty’s favorite socks – see rule #1.

3. Some people suck. But most people do not. I met some really nice people who were reasonable and fair as we haggled over prices. Then there were a handful of people who I would have liked to smack upside the head. Here’s a tip for buyers – don’t talk smack about me when you’re standing in my garage. It’s not going to encourage me to sell you that worn-once $80 girl’s party dress for 50 cents. It will make me want to dump my coffee on your head, though. And yes, that really happened. Except for the coffee. And then this lovely specimen of humanity proceeded to yell at me as she pulled away from the curb. Okaaaaayy.

4. Know your bottom line. Know the least you’re willing to accept for an item. You may find that you’d rather donate an item then allow yourself to be pushed into selling it for next-to-nothing. My husband is an avid reader. That’s his treat to himself: books. So, we had a lot of really current, like new books at the sale. It turned out, I would rather donate those books to my library rather than sell them to the woman who advised me that “at garage sales, people sell their hardcovers for $1, not $3. (Insert look of disgust here.)” On the other hand, I was okay with going way down on the price of some of the kids’ clothing.

5. Do not let people push you around. This is sort of an addendum to my previous tip. People can be a little bananas. I think there are people who wear their aggressive bargaining skills like a badge of honor. My grandmother was like that. She would talk the grocery clerk into giving her two free packages of cookies instead of one on senior citizen day and then would brag about it the rest of the week. I could write pages on some of the tactics people tried to get better deals. Some were really effective, some less so and some – just plain offensive. Telling me you’re buying the clothes to help out a family on your street that doesn’t have much = effective. Trying to get me to lower a price because you’re not sure if the wall hanging will look good in your house = less effective. Trying to hide a more “expensive” item in your arms among a bunch of crap and then trying to get me to price the armload without mentioning the item I saw you pick up = offensive. If you need to brush up on your assertiveness, a garage sale is a great place to practice.

6. Have some friends available for moral support. I’m pretty sure I would not have gotten through it all without the support of some good friends who stayed with me and laughed with me. And brought me coffee.

7. Know that if worse comes to worse, you can always shut the garage doors and bring everything to Goodwill. I didn’t do that, but it was sort of comforting to know that was an option.

I hope I’m not forgetting anything.

What’s your best garage sale tip? What’s your most horrifying garage sale story? Please share it in the comments!

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Life is Happening.

21 Jun

I’ve been meaning to let you all know how the garage sell went, and to post something about my Dad for Father’s Day but this little girl is graduating from elementary school tonight and, to compound my anxiety about the evening, I’m also giving a short speech.

My neighbor once told me that in parenting, “the days are long, but the years are short.” She was so right. The 12 years since I gave birth to my amazing first child have flown by. As I was preparing for the garage sale, I found a pair of her socks that she wore all the time – they stretched up to her knees. It seems impossible that those little socks once fit chubby little legs that are now long and coltish. Impossible that the baby whose round little face was the repository of literally thousands of kisses could be thisclose to her teenage years, and everything that goes along with them.

I love my big girl – my first born – and yes, I hope you have the time of your life.

Everything happens for a reason…

16 Jun

I really believe every thing happens for a reason. Even when something crappy happens, I try and find the lesson to be learned. Yesterday was one of those days – apparently, I had a lot to learn.

(Right now I’m learning that if you eat an entire sleeve of Thin Mints because you’re stressed about your upcoming garage sale, you will feel nauseous.)

So, yeah, the garage sale. I think I mentioned before that I have a garage sale once every ten years (so this will be my second) because I get all weirded out. I don’t know if it’s the idea of people going through my things, or the horror stories I have heard but I’m just not a fan. However, I’m in a “simplify my life” mode right now, and there’s too much stuff to find a single place to donate to  – so here I am with a garage full of things priced ridiculously cheap and a belly full of Thin Mints.

Anywhoozle – things happening for a reason. A little background: two years ago, I ran my first marathon in Philadelphia. It was a bucket list item for me, so it was a big deal. After the marathon, I took a shower at the hotel and then we headed home. When we got home, I couldn’t find my race number or, more importantly, my camera. I looked and looked and finally came to the conclusion that I set them down somewhere in a post-marathon haze and they were gone forever. Two. Years. Ago.

In preparation for my garage sale, I went through things that had been down in the black hole of our cellar for some time. Among them, was this hot pink duffel bag that I hadn’t used in years. I dragged it upstairs with a couple of other pieces of luggage. As I was wiping it down, I unzipped the pocket and – shut the front door – there was the camera, my hydration belt with the number still pinned to it and the little shampoo my kids took from that hotel in Philadelphia. I assure you, I never would have found those things if I hadn’t been doing the garage sale.

Lesson #1: Do things that make you challenge your comfort level – you will be rewarded in some way.

(Philadelphia Marathon 2009 – that’s me in the red, smiling at my kiddos!)

Crazy, right?

Next. You know how I can’t stand laundry. It’s a never-ending chore – because, apparently, people wear clothes all. the. time. And, I happen to have a daughter who changes outfits like she’s Celine Dion performing in Vegas. In the machine, out of the machine, in the dryer, out of the dryer, fold, put away. Repeat. Forever. Last night, my washing machine stopped working. I was getting an error message about the door locking mechanism. I did what any woman married to a brilliant but unhandy man would do: I turned to Google. I tried everything I could find. Nothing worked. At 11:30 pm (way past my bedtime) I asked the handiest guy I know – my Dad. My dad passed away last year. That man could fix anything. (And now, so can my brother.) He was the kind of guy who could either fix it up right, or perform a miracle with duct tape and a hammer.

Let me tell you – when I got up this morning – that washing machine worked. It’s still working and I’ve done three loads today.

Lesson #2: Ask for help when you need it, you’ll get it, and maybe from the most unlikely of places.

And maybe stop bitchin’ about the laundry, because at least I’m not hauling it to the laundromat down a flight of stairs like my mom used to. Washing machines are awesome.

What lessons have you learned from unlikely circumstances?

Honest Mommy

13 Jun

Yesterday morning, I lost my cool with my kids.

My husband was out with friends and I was home alone. The morning started with the general bickering that seems to go on nearly constantly among my three children – over critical issues like the choice of cartoon, who gets the juice first and who has the unmitigated nerve to breathe at the wrong moment. It’s not so much the arguing that drives me bananas; it’s the disrespect they show each other. That just set the stage – what finally pushed me over the edge was the clean laundry on the floor of KitKat’s room covered by dirty laundry.

I don’t know about you – but I don’t really enjoy working as a servant. It’s about that respect thing again. It’s one thing to clean up after the normal stuff that goes on in a household with three kids and three dogs, but it is something else to clean up after someone who can’t be bothered to put the washed, sorted and folded clothing into a friggin’ drawer! So yeah, I went a little temporarily crazy. I yelled, I screamed. I actually gathered up all the dirty clothes and threatened to throw them away and picked up all the clean clothes and threatened to put those in the garage sale. I made them all stay in their rooms.

And then I sat in my bathroom and felt guilty.

Here’s what I think: Every mother on the planet has those moments. Parenting is a hard job. Our “clients” are irrational, demanding and really annoying sometimes. They are also amazing and wonderful and the best part of life. It’s just really hard to remember that part when you just stepped on a Lego in bare feet, or when you’ve said something for the 15th time and it still hasn’t gotten done. It doesn’t make you a bad mommy to have a melt down. It just makes you human.

Sunday Sweetness: Magnolia Bakery Peanut Butter Cookies

12 Jun

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that the kids wanted me to make a cake but I still haven’t fully recovered from my last cake disaster. (Read about that here.) I made an executive decision (5 loads of laundry a day and stretch marks give me that power ) to make a cookie, while easing my way toward another cake attempt.

I’m really enjoying writing these baking posts because it forces me to crack open cookbooks I may not have looked at recently ever. I bought the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook a while ago. I’m not sure I’ve ever baked anything out of it, to be completely honest. I’m a little bit of a cookbook hussy like that – I check them out, fondle them, take them home with me and then – nothing. Except for Ina Garten, I have totally had my way with her. Over and over again. I think I’ve made her Asian Chicken Salad about a hundred times, it’s that good.

Anywhoozle, the kids and I flipped through the Magnolia Bakery recipes and could not agree on a recipe. There may have been a few times “eww, gross” was uttered – which, frankly, I can’t understand in relation to a dessert. Ah, youth. I decided on the peanut butter cookies because they seemed pretty simple, which shouldn’t have posed too much of a challenge to my slim baking skills. That turned out to be not exactly correct.

First, the recipe:

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup chunky peanut butter
3/4 cup and 1 tbs sugar (1 tbs for sprinkling)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine in large bowl: flour, baking soda, baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In another large bowl (I used my stand mixer with the whisk attachment), beat the butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add the sugars, beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Using a fork, press a criss-cross pattern into the cookie but don’t smush them flat.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may look underdone, but they’re not.

The girls helped me bake these babies, so I can’t exactly vouch for the precision of the ingredient measurements but I know that we ran out of regular sugar, so I threw in a little extra brown sugar and I didn’t have enough to sprinkle. Did I mention that I went to the grocery store this morning? And that I didn’t realize that I was out of sugar? I do, however, have 5 bags of flour. I also couldn’t find chunky peanut butter, only EXTRA chunky. So that was strike one.

Strike two? They seemed a little wet. There was no chance there was going to be any fancy criss-cross on top – the fork practically stuck to the cookies.

Strike three? I put three cookie sheets in the oven and the top one got a tad…browned.

BUT – in spite of all that – these cookies tasted great! Crazy, right? Peanut buttery, but not too sweet. (Because of the missing sugar?)

If I were to make these again, I would omit the sprinkled sugar and throw in some chocolate chips in place of half of the peanut butter chips. Really, isn’t everything made better by chocolate?

We all thought these were delicious. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

A Realist Mom

8 Jun

Sometimes, I’ll be somewhere with the kids – like Target or the park for a soccer game – and there will be a kid having a complete and total meltdown. More often than not, the parent trying to contend with it is Mom. At those moments I always remind my kids, “It’s not easy being the mommy.” Because it isn’t. The reality of motherhood is that, taken as a whole, it’s nearly equal parts joy and exasperation. That’s the long view. On a day-to-day level, it can be more one than the other. And almost always mixed together.

Motherhood – parenting – it’s hard. And there can be some incredibly high expectations out there. We need to be able to convincingly wield a glue gun, craft, sew (a little), cook, bake and look good doing it. We are the chief domestic officers, fundraisers, cheerleaders and volunteers. There is an expectation that we will present a side of us to the world that has it all together: lunches packed, notes signed, hair done and kids achieving.

I think that’s crap. It’s not possible. Anybody who tells you that it is, is lying. Or has live-in help. Or both.

We need to be realistic about our expectations of ourselves and other moms. Some days, I forget to pack lunches and my kids eat the dreaded cafeteria food. Every once in a while, I have to run to school in my pajamas to drop off the forgotten homework or note or sneakers. Sometimes, we eat pizza. I screw up. Often.

And that is okay. That, my friends, is life.

I think of myself as a reformed perfectionist. For some people, perfectionism is a force that drives them to excel. For me, it was paralyzing. I could never start – because I was too afraid of failure. I am letting that go. Life is about making mistakes and – most importantly – learning from them. I won’t let the fear of failure – of an ugly quilt, or an inedible cake, for example – keep me from trying. From getting back up and accepting the reality of life:

Motherhood, hell, isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being real. And loving it. 

That is what this blog is all about – celebrating the day to day of life – the little things that make it special, the always trying, the always getting back up. I won’t sugar coat things. I’ll try and help you get to where you want to go, while I’m trying to get there myself.

Sunday Sweetness: S’more Rice Krispie Treats

5 Jun

I think Sundays are the perfect day for lounging around the house and enjoying family time. Maybe while eating bon bons.


Around here, Sundays consist of running to soccer games, more laundry and finishing up homework and last-minute house projects. Sundays already have that little tinge of dread happening, in anticipation of the dreaded Monday so I thought, what better way to counter-act that than by whipping up a special sweet?

My baking record is pretty spotty. I’m good with chocolate chip cookies, most of the time – I just follow the recipe on the Tollhouse bag. There was one truly tragic incident with a chocolate cake on Thanksgiving. The cake was so granular and gritty that it induced the gag response in those unfortunate enough to try a bite, an audience that of course, included my in-laws. It was like watching an accident in slow motion – I ate my bite first, recognized it for the culinary catastrophe that it was in seconds, but wasn’t fast enough in my reaction time to stop the others from suffering the same revolting fate. I imagine that’s what chocolate sand must taste like – if you scraped it off your feet first. It was humiliating and hilarious at the same time. Which, come to think of it, summarizes large portions of my life.

I assume that a domestic goddess has the ability to create mouth-watering delicacies at the wave of a spoon. Me, not so much. But, in my never-ending quest for domestic goddess status, allow me to present the first installment in Sunday Sweetness: S’more Rice Krispie Treats.

These are fairly straightforward to make (perhaps why I started with them?) – you just need to have everything ready to go because you need to work quickly once the marshmallows are smooth. Since half the prep takes place off the cooktop, it’s a great recipe to include the kids on.

S’more Rice Krispie Treats

1/2 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 – 10 oz package of marshmallows

4 cups of Rice Krispies

2 1/2 cups of Golden Graham cereal

1 1/4 cups of chocolate chips

Coat the inside of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with cooking spray. Heat the butter in a large NON-STICK saucepan over low heat until melted. Add the marshmallows and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture is smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cereal and chips, mixing well. (Try not to crush the Golden Grahams.) Press the mixture into the pan evenly. (I find it easier to do this if my hands are a little wet.) Let mixture cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting into bars.

Recipe adapted from The Only Bake Sale Cookbook You’ll Ever Need by Laurie Goldrich Wolf and Pam Abrams.

These were super easy to make and yummy! The kids gave them two chocolate-covered thumbs up!