Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bountiful Baskets

Though I've only been blog-hopping a few weeks, it has already made a positive impact on my life.  It was through a blog I learned about the 'Bountiful Baskets' program. 

BB is a non-profit food co-op serving the western US.  At the beginning of the week, you can purchase a "basket" for $15.  All the money is pooled and used to purchase fresh, in-season, preferably local produce (organic is also available for an extra charge) at wholesale prices.  At the end of the week, the food is sorted by volunteers and available for pick-up.  Each basket generally has 6 types of veggies and 6 types of fruit and is retail valued at $50.  (I'm not sure I agree with that estimate, but I do think it is a pretty good deal).

Sometimes additional items are offered- breads, cases of fruit, special Italian blends, etc. 
This was my first week participating, though, so I started with the basic basket.  Here is what my $19.50 ($15 for basket, $3 new member fee, $1.50 handling fee) purchased:

6 tomatoes, 2 bunches of radishes, celery, a bunch of bananas, a head of lettuce, persimmons, 8 oranges, 6 apples, 6 red potatoes, 4 onions, 3 bell peppers, 11 tangerines, a melon, and 6 pears.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Professional Shopper Part II

I've had a few questions about making money on Ebay.  My motivation and mentor was the blog My Dear Trash.  I read the entire blog and took copious notes, which I've condensed for you here.

What to Buy:
Items that are NWT sell best.
Larger sizes of ladies clothing, maternity, and kids clothing are good moneymakers.
Some of the Best  Resale Brands:  Chicos, Ann Taylor, Citizen for Humanity, BeBe, Ralph Lauren, LEI, Talbots Gap, Armani, Venezia, Jessica McClintock, Tommy Bahama, Geoffrey Beene, Fresh Produce, Lela Rose, Blue Fish, hot cotton, Land’s End,  Eileen Fisher, Jam’s World, Life is Good, Lane Bryant, Tahari, Belldini,Nat Nat, Lovely Day, Patagonia, Horney Toad, White Stuff, Chico Travellers, Burberry, Deisel, 7 for all Mankind, Flax, J Jill,Ralph Lauren Plus, White House Black Market, Charlotte Russe
 Leather and overalls are good sellers, even if not a brand name.
 Sell in season- tweed in fall, linens in summer.
Avoid Petite clothing, doesn't sell as well.  Talls, on the other hand, do quite well.
 As a general rule, your price point should be $1.00/ item of clothing.  Call around your local thrift stores to see if they have a dollar day, and try garage sales.  Just last weekend I found 7 excellent quality Pendleton wool skirts at a garage sale for $1.00 each.
Ebay Tips:
Ebay lists your first 100 items free each month, so it doesn't cost anything to give this a try.  They will take a 12% cut of your selling price, though, and Paypal takes a cut as well.  To help off-set this, attach a handling fee to your shipping price.
 For shipping, anything under 13 oz ship in a manila envelope first class.  Charge $4.95  Over 13 oz, cram and squeeze the item into a (free) Priority Flat Rate envelope, which ships for $4.90.  Charge 6.95.  Grab a stack whenever you go by the post office.  If you want to offer International shipping, charge 14.00.  You can still mail in the flat rate or manila envelope, you just need to fill out a customs form. 
With my mail order sister missionary clothing business, Sorella Bella, and doing all the shipping for Parker Planners, I feel like I live at the post office.  I'm trying to start printing postage at home, but until then I swear by the Automated Postal Machine.  It is fast, typically has no line, and is open 24/7.
If you end up liking doing this, invest in a postal scale.  It will let you print shipping at home, then you can arrange a free package pick up online.  Recommended- Escali Primo Digital Multifunctional Scale - It costs $24.95 and weighs up to 11 lbs.
 People will most likely find your item by searching, so cram as many descriptive words in your title as you can.
List each item for four weeks- Week 1: Full price, Week 2: Full price, Week 3: Reduced Price, Week 4: 2.99.  This allows your item a month of exposure.  Avoid pricing at $.99. Even though someone may be willing to pay more for it, if they are the only one interested that week they will get it for the .99.  You then barely break even.
Basic How-To: 
  1. Get inventory- seek brand name items in excellent condition.  
  2. Photograph all your items.  Some thrift stores take returns, so if you paid more than a dollar out for an item you are unsure about, hide the tag rather than removing.  This job is best done with a partner- one photographs, the other lays out and arranges each piece.
  3. Sit down with your tape measure and list the items on Ebay.  Save time by grouping like items then using the 'Sell Similar Item' link.
  4. When you auctions end, sit and write out the addresses on each envelope.  On the back flap write the item name, then take the stack of envelopes to your store room and stuff with corresponding item.

Phew, that was a long post!  I highly recommend trying thrifting and reselling out- it has been fun so far, and I can see the supplemental income potential.  Keep in mind Ebay is a numbers game-  the more items you have for sale, the better you'll do.  If it doesn't sell the first week (as many items don't), try again!  Let me know if you have any more questions, and feel free to share your thrifting experiences.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Professional Shopping

Part I
Last week I discovered an exciting blog, My Dear Trash.  It hosts the wisdom and experiences of two former Temple Square sister missionaries (yay Temple Square!) who work from home selling thrift store / garage sale finds on Ebay and craigslist. 
I have some experience in this arena- I love the thrill of bargain hunting and stretching our limited budget.  My husband partially funded his college education flipping cars on craigslist.  However, I've always thought of Ebay selling as too complicated.  Not anymore!  Laura and Kelly are full of advice and encouragement, and make it seem so easy. 

I compiled a list of all their tips and posted it here: How to Sell on Ebay

The record of my first week:

I decided to try it out.  I headed to my local Savers on Monday morning- the day last week's sale color becomes a $.99 item.  I arrived right before they open- to find a line of 30 people waiting outside the door!  Wow!

Adrenaline started pumping as the employees released the floodgates opened the doors- I shot through and grabbed a cart and headed to the ladies coats.  No luck!  Quickly, I maneuvered through the maze of shoppers with fast-filling carts (how!?) to the rack of plus-size jeans.  Nada.  I looked around the store and it seemed every rack was being quickly flipped through by expert fingers.

I took a break to peruse the furniture section (not an exemption- furniture for $.99!), then chose an aisle that didn't look too crowded. The other shoppers were sifting through a rack of women's suits, so I started on the opposite side- long skirts.  Jackpot!  I found 10 skirts in the recommended brands and sizes.  After that I also found some ladies slacks and dresses at Idaho Youth Ranch Thrift Store next door, and decided that was a perfect start for my experiment.

Part II
Yesterday my first set of Ebay auctions ended.  The results?  Out of 14 items, 8 sold.  $58 earned - $4.50 Ebay fees - $30 inventory = $23.50 profit

This prompted me to continue the experiment.  I have relisted what did not sell at lower prices, and posted another 25 items for sale.  

My top seller of the week- a size 12 Talbots wool skirt selling at 19.99 via Buy-it-now.

Pomegranate Salsa

Last year I tasted Pomegranate Salsa for the first time at a bridal shower. Yum!  So, when I saw a super sale on "ugly" poms- 3 for $1- I had to try to recreate it.

Pomegranate Salsa

Chop and add to bowl.
     1 Bunch Cilantro
     1-2 Tomatos
     1 Green Bell Pepper
     1/2 Red Onion

     Juice from 1 Lime
     Several Squirts of Green Tabasco sauce (to taste)
     Ariels/Seeds from 3 Pomegranates (check Our Best Bites for easy de-seeding instructions)
     Avocado, diced.

Mix up and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why I Need to Learn to Knit

Today I found the deliciously color-drenched blog casapinka After oohing over gorgeous inspiration photos and some dreamy-eyed window-shopping, I am convinced I urgently need to learn to knit.

Now that that is decided, I just have to figure out how to convince Ben that pink is a perfectly wonderful color for decorating.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bleach Stenciled Shirt

After painstakingly cutting out our freezer-paper stencil, Ben and I definitely wanted to maximize the return on our effort.

Using the cut outs, we made a second shirt to give as a gift.  Using the original printout as a reference, we arranged the letters (shiny side down) and firmly pressed on with a medium-hot iron. 

Next, I spritzed the shirt with several sprays of full-strength bleach.  I think I went a little overboard with this, and Ben kept shouting, "But what about the capillary action?" so I
blotted some off.

Ten minutes later, the shirt looked about the right color so we quickly removed the stencil, rinsed the shirt, and tossed it in the wash.

The final result looks great!  In the future I will try to not be so generous in my spritzing, and will protect the collar.  Otherwise, unbelievable easy- try it!

First Attempt at Freezer Paper Stenciling

I've been seeing so many cute freezer paper projects in Blogland lately, and wanted to give it a shot.  I don't have kids (yet) so I dote on my darling husband Ben (sort of the same thing).  He is a financial accountant, so I came up with an accounting-themed image using Picasa and clip art from Google Image Search .
I printed the image and taped the freezer paper over it (shiny side down).  Then, using the poor man's cricut, I painstakingly cut out each letter.  For future projects I am going to look for block letters- rounded curves were tough.

Following I Am Momma's Tutorial, I positioned my freezer paper outline and ironed it on to the T-shirt.  Then, I painted the exposed fabric with Tulip Soft Fabric paint in white.

It took several coats to fully cover the bright blue of the shirt.  As the stencil became soaked, it bubbled out and paint leaked. Yipes!  Next time, I will make sure to allow the paint to thoroughly dry between coats.

The next morning, I peeled off the stencil for the reveal:

A little messy at the corners, but my accountant doesn't seem to mind!

Martineau Mini's

This week I found chocolate chip for .25 after coupon.  When I saw adorable mini chips, I knew I had to buy them for Ben.  My husband doesn't do much baking, but when he does, watch out!  His specialty is "Martineau Mini's" - delicious mini chocolate chip cookies.

He uses this basic recipe:

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cut granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
12 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.  Mix thoroughly butter & sugar, then eggs & vanilla.
Mix dry ingredients separately.
Mix together.

You end up with a delicious bowl of dough - and now for the fun part.  You make a tiny ball of dough (if you used regular size chocolate chips you just want 1-2 chips per ball).  How tiny?  I make a tiny one, then Ben tells me to divide it in two.  So, small!  
Line them up- they don't spread out much so you can put them fairly close.

Bake for 4-6 minutes, and watch them closely!  

We had 4 sheets (2 in oven at a time) going so we could constantly be forming cookies.  It is pretty time consuming, but it was fun to sit and talk.  I will warn you- the dough balls and cookies are small, so it is easy to keep popping them into your mouth.  Be careful not to avoid eating so many you get sick!

Dozens upon dozens of cookies (and about 45 minutes) later, we're done!  Enjoy your bite-size cookies one by one, or by the handful!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Meet the Martineaus

Hello!  I'm Candace, pictured here with my hunk'a'husband Ben.  We have been married now for a little over a year.  We recently moved to Boise, ID where Ben was lucky to find a job.  I'm starting this blog to chronicle our transition into married, grown-up life.  

 We started out humbly - in a tiny dungeon basement apartment in Provo, then graduated to a much roomier place in Boise.  Since then we have adopted a furry bundle of joy, Percy.  His favorite activity is to make buddies at the nearby Bark Park, but he would love a yard of his very own to play in.

Earlier this year, I started Sorella Bella- an online store selling LDS sister missionary clothing (modest yet cute skirts, cardigans, travel accessories, split slips, etc.)  The inventory has taken over the second bedroom and is spilling forth into the living area.

That is why we are taking a big step- purchasing our first home.  With it will come plenty of improvement projects- each day I visit the magical world of Blogland I add to our 'New Home To-do List'.  

Thanks for visiting, and check back to see our progress on making house a home!