Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tips from a Yard Sale Junkie

By Rachelle J. Christensen

The daffodils are blooming and the yard sales are looming. Time for one of my favorite activities—yard sales!
When I moved into my house about five years ago I was able to help furnish it with finds at local yard sales. Everything from designer curtains to garbage cans, bookshelves to framed pictures were acquired for a fraction of the price I might’ve paid. I’ve been going to yard sales for years and I think there’s an elementary science to success, so I thought I’d share some of my tips with you.

Tips for Buyers:

Don’t Be Afraid to Bargain. Most people want to get rid of their stuff—hence the yard sale. Most people also aren’t very savvy when it comes to pricing. So if you think something is over-priced, don’t hesitate to make an offer. I would say roughly half the things I purchase at yard sales are the result of a little dickering.

Visit Yard Sales Early and Late. Early in the morning, you get first dibs on the good stuff. Later in the day, people are ready to close up shop and will often reduce prices. They’ll also be more open to accept counter-offers if it’s almost time for the yard sale to be over.

Carry a Notebook. Jot down addresses when you pass a sign. Organize your list of places to go by direction and create a route to travel for your yard sales.

Use Small Bills. I use an envelope with twenty one-dollar bills and then I might have a couple $5 or $10 bills for larger items. This helps in case the yard sale host doesn’t have enough change. It’s also fun to set a budget for yourself. For example, I get $12 for yard sales today, once it’s gone, I’ll go home. It’s amazing what you can buy for only $12.00.

Examine Items Carefully. Look for chips, cracks, or other defects. Be sure to ask if you can plug in anything electronic to make sure it actually works.

Wash Before Using. Even if an item of clothing or stuffed animal looks brand new, I wash everything I buy to eliminate germs, etc.

Do Your Homework. If you’re shopping for large ticket items like furniture or appliances, check local internet listings of people selling similar items to get an idea for a reasonable price. This way you’ll be aware when you find a really good deal.

If you don’t need it, don’t buy it just because it’s a great deal.

Have Fun! I enjoy going to yard sales because in less than an hour, I can usually visit five or six and spend less than $10.00 on everything from children’s books to a new shovel and garden hose.

Are you thinking of holding a yard sale? Here are a few tips to increase your sales success:

Take the Bargain. At the end of the day, do you want to have to haul off remains to be donated or would you rather have fifty cents for each item? Be willing to take offers from potential buyers and you’ll increase the money in your cashbox quicker.

Make it Big. If you’re going to take time to make a sign, make sure the address is bold, legible, and posted in a highly visible area. Take note of city restrictions and don’t post signs illegally. Many communities have a board, website, newspaper area, etc. for you to post details about your yard sale.

Location, Location, Location—pick a central location, well-populated area. If you have a friend or family member that lives in a better location, see if they might want to host a joint-yard sale with you.

Pricing. A good pricing rule of thumb is to mark the item to 5% or 10% of whatever you purchased it for. An example: you purchased a shirt for $20, sell it for $1.00. You purchased that bookshelf for $100.00, sell it for $10.00. Of course, this may vary according to how new your items are, or the demand, but largely this is a good rule to follow.

Use a Cash Box. Fill it with several small bills and change, especially dollar bills. Make sure that the cash box is never left unattended. Many people wear an apron and keep the money in a bag in the pockets.

Go Light on the Clothing. Unless it’s baby/kid clothes. When I see a yard sale with big piles of clothes, I steer clear. If you are going to sell clothing, arrange the items neatly and price very low, as in 50 cents or less. Baby/kids clothes are a popular item if they are clean and priced right. Use a table and fold the items for display.

Bag It. Collect used grocery bags to have on hand for purchased items.

Track Sales. Have a calculator and notebook handy to keep track of sales and other information.

Donate. If holding a yard sale sounds like too much of a hassle, consider donating. There are many places you can donate to and receive a receipt for your donations which are tax deductible.

Hopefully these tips will help you enjoy the yard sale season. There are endless treasures waiting out there at a yard sale near you just waiting to be discovered.
What great finds have you purchased at a yard sale?

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Twist on College Basketball Brackets

My husband and I love March Madness! Every year we fill out brackets--he fills out multiple brackets--and then we see who is the best sports analyst. Yes, I did beat him last year even though he is much more knowledgeable when it comes to the team stats.
I enjoy watching the nail-biting, overtime, last shot victories that ensue during the NCAA championship games.
Now wait, don't run and hide if you don't like basketball or you don't even know what a bracket is. I have a fun treat to share with you whether you're a bracketology enthusiast or not.

I know many of my followers like chocolate and if you know me, then you know that I LOVE Dove Dark Chocolate. So when my hubby sent me this link, I just had to share.
Visit the Victory Formation and discover their

Chocolatology Bracket! 

I can't believe my Dove Bar got such a low seed. So I'm picking Reese's Cups to go up against the Dove Bar for one quadrant of the final four.
How about you? What's your favorite? Who will win the chocolatology bracket?

If you are a bracket enthusiast and following the madness, here's a quick link to a live updated bracket.

My Utah State Aggies didn't make it past the first round and I was sad to see BYU's loss even though I picked Florida to win on my bracket. I have Kansas going all the way. How about you?
Chocolate or Basketball or both? What's your picks?

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Boys

I just had to post a picture of the men in my life :)
My sweet little baby is already 5 months old!

Steve is loving having two boys and our 2 year old is definitely keeping us busy. He loves being a big brother. Of course, you've heard the saying that sometimes love I'm constantly packing that chunky baby around to spare him from the love.

My two girls are little mommies and they like to think they can pack their baby brother around the house too. It's a circus here, but we're lovin' it!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Author Interview: Laura Bingham on Alvor

I'm happy to welcome Laura Bingham to my blog today. We're celebrating the release of her second book, Wings of Light, a sequel to Alvor Alvor 

Laura was kind enough to give us a delightful interview:

Please stop by her blog for more information on the fabulous giveaways she is hosting all month long.

Okay, Laura, tell us who you are and what you do.
Nearly a native of Idaho, I was born in Iowa and moved to Idaho at age four.  I graduated from Ricks College with an Associates degree and from Boise State University with a Bachelor degree in Biology as well as certification to teach all science subjects in secondary education in the state of Idaho.  In my backyard stands a dance studio where I teach youth of all ages clogging and Irish dance.  I live in Boise, Idaho with my husband and five young children. 

I knew I liked her! I'm from Idaho also--born and raised!

What type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?
I have a general idea of what the story line is, and then I write in the rest.  I love finding out new dimensions of the characters and stories as I write.  Always, something unexpected turns up as I go.

Do you write best at a certain time of the day?
Whenever it’s quiet.  I’m not picky.
Now that answer is a sign of a true writer, huh? We have to take those writing minutes whenever we get them, especially with little kids running around.

What food or snack keeps the words flowing?
Dark chocolate is the food of life.  I don’t really snack while I write, but sometimes I bring hot chocolate to the computer.

 Dark chocolate is my bosom buddy--but it really needs to be Dove. :)
What sparks a story?
Alvor was the first novel I wrote and it comes with its own story.  I wanted to write a book, not a burning need or an unmet goal in life, just a desire.  I told my husband that I wanted to write one, and he asked me what I needed to start.  I said I had to know what the story was going to be about.  This was late at night after we were already in bed.  I’m a night owl.  He fell asleep five seconds after our conversation.  Then the story of Alvor spilled into my head.  The characters and the plot- I somehow had a story laid out in front of me.  That’s where it all started for me.

What was it about your genre that interested you enough to choose to write in it and not in another genre?
I guess I never grew up.  I love kids.  I used to teach 9th graders at school.  I still teach kids clogging.  I love fantasy realism where the story mixes real life with some kind of magic or super power. 

What's the best advice you ever received?
There is more than one story.  You have as many opportunities as you create for yourself.

That is a fantastic piece of advice. Thanks for sharing it!
I believe good writers read a lot. What do you use to mark your page when reading?
That depends on where in the house the book is located.  I read while I work out (a perfect motivator) and I have a book holder on my elliptical fitness trainer where I use binder clips to hold the pages down while I work out.  Then there’s always a book behind the sofa.  Right now the page is held by a power company’s lightening bug bookmark/ruler that my second grade son brought home from school a couple months ago. 

What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?
I love losing myself in the story and feeling like time has no meaning.  It gives me such a happy boost to write several pages in one sitting.  What I like least- not getting enough uninterrupted time.  I can’t write if I don’t have enough time to get my head back into the story.

Tell us what the book is about and why you the Alvor series it.
  For years I have visited my grandparents who live in the Pennsylvania hills.  I’ve walked through the dense forest where bushes and thick vegetation fill the gaps between the tall oak trees.  It isn’t hard to imagine that fairies could live in a place where fireflies bounce off the lawns in the evening.  This is the world where Erin and her twin brother have lived most all of their lives
    She is an average fifteen year old whose twin brother is everything she’s not.  He’s athletic and charismatic.  She feels about as coordinated as a four year old on roller skates, and with her unruly red hair and extremely fair skin, she doesn’t find herself compellingly attractive.
   Living in a quiet village there isn’t much to do, and most of their summers are spent exploring the hills.  It was only a matter of time before they found the cabin.  A world of fairies, elves, and magic is opened up and disbelief is not an option.  They can see them, talk to them and then they find out that if they choose, they can become elves. 
    The training is amazing as they learn swordplay, botany and magic.  Erin puts much of her faith in her twin brother, so when he disappears the morning after they become elves, her world falls apart.  Without him, she feels broken.  She sets out to find him and along the way meets a boy who steals her heart.  Dark magic and fallen elves await her as she draws closer to solving the mystery.
  Alvor infuses impossible fantasy with the present world and the characters real enough to make it believable.  And in a most subtle way, it weaves a tale that helps youth recognize their self worth and inspires them to reach a new potential. 
   I wrote this story because I believe that we all have power inside of us.  Power to change who we are, who we become and to influence the world around us.  If I could reach out to readers and inspire them to see the infinite potential that lies there, I will have succeeded in the purpose of this story.

Your book sounds fantastic! Why should anyone part with their hard earned cash and precious time to read your book? Sell it to us!
  Take a journey into the world where you can use magic, talk to butterfly winged fairies and learn to use an eternal blade.  Fall in love, but be prepared for the evil that stands in the way between you and all you hoped to achieve.
  Erin doesn’t find herself especially beautiful or talented, unlike her twin brother, Bain.  Learning to become an elf takes a lot of faith.  Finding the courage to leave life as she knows it leads to even more choices and devastating situations.  But in the end, she learns that the right answers are there in front of her and that to move forward, she must trust herself.

 What advice would you pass along at this point in your career?
Don’t stop writing.  Always move forward.  Don’t give up in the face of rejection.  Seek help through writers groups, writers conferences and the internet.  Find other authors and read their stories of how they got published. 

Thank you Laura for your great advice and insight into your author world. Remember to stop by Laura's blog to find out more about her writing projects.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday Thought March

Don't Worry.
Be Happy.

Now do you have a song in your head?
Do any of you have a worrier in your family? My 7 year old daughter is quite the worrywart. She worries about EVERYTHING and has an imagination to sustain the worry. Maybe it's just the age, I don't know.
Any tips on helping a worrier?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Don't Give Up

My family has been listening to this song and watching this video lately. My kids love it and so do I.
I just wanted to share my inspiration to keep going today with you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thursday Thought March

There are no little events in life, those we think of no consequence may be full of fate, and it is at our own risk if we neglect the acquaintances and opportunities that seem to be casually offered, and of small importance.

--Amelia E. Barr

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Book Review: Forbidden Sea

I am thoroughly enjoying reading the many wonderful books selected as Whitney Award Finalists.
I just finished reading Forbidden SeaForbidden Sea by Sheila A. Nielson and loved it! This book is up for two awards--a genre award in the Youth Fiction-Speculative category and also the category of Best Book by a New Author.

Sheila Nielson did a fabulous job with her descriptive details and I loved the spin she put on the myth of the mermaids. This story has a classic Cinderella feel to it and at the beginning, I'll admit I was slightly depressed at how hard Adrianne's life was--that's a good thing though--it means the author did her job well of making the main character so realistic that I felt genuine sorrow for her.
I highly recommend this book because the message that Nielson weaves throughout the story of personal self-worth and value is so important for our youth today. She writes in such a way that you become so entrenched in the story and characters you won't want the story to end.
So grab a copy and read this great book published by Scholastic Press. Then go visit the Whitney Awards site and choose another finalist to read. I'd love to know what finalists you have read and enjoyed.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I. Am. So. Tired.
This post is not for the faint of heart--we interrupt Rachelle's regular upbeat posting for a small dose of the REAL world, one so real that she hasn't been able to write herself out of it...

Yep, I'm TIRED
of getting no sleep
of cold, snowy mornings
of babies crying
people coughing
no sleep
dinners that need to made
dishes that must be washed
no sleep
laundry and shaking throw-up chunks out of towels
nebulizer treatments
expensive medicine
no sleep
3 doctor visits in one day, right after the new year when my deductible has no longer been met
Seeing every hour on the clock from 10pm to 7am accompanied by crying, coughing, barfing, and more crying.
 of telling myself that next week will be better and maybe I will get to stay in my bed for more than 2 hours

Explanation for tired, no smiley-girl Rachelle???
There has been someone sick in my house since January 15th (that's over 7 weeks). 4 kids--ages 7 years to 4 months. 2 adults--actual age undisclosed, but the age that we feel right now is 82 and 76, respectively.
I will end this depressing post by saying that I am so thankful for good health and when it returns I will kiss it, hug it, hold it and try to never let it leave again!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday Thought March

We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own or to other people's models, learn to be ourselves, and allow our natural channel to open.
--Shakti Gawain


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