Saturday, November 23, 2013

Craigslist - Where I'm At 7 Days In

It's been a week since I placed my Craigslist ads.  I thought I would give you an update of where I'm at.

The list ended up being slightly different.  In my previous post on selling on Craigslist I had indicated a bike trailer, bedrail guard, foldable stroller, digital baby scale, and a folding dolly.  What I ended up actually putting on Craigslist was a bike trailer, bedrail guard, foldable stroller, wooden rocking horse, and a 1989 Honda Prelude.  I decided to hold on to the digital scale for now - it can be used for many things, such as fruit and vegetable weighing, and postal weighing.  The dolly will likely get advertised later on.  The wooden rocking horse has been sitting around taking up too much space for too long.  And the Honda?  It's been a great vehicle, but it really doesn't fit our lifestyle anymore.

So, what prices did I set and what results have I had?
  • Triumph Bike Trailer Holds 2 Children - $55 - Sold in 7 days - sell price $30 (54.5% of asking price)
  • Summer Extra Wide Extra tall Bedrail - $20 - Sold in 7 days - sell price $15 (75% of asking price)
  • Combi Stroller - $55 - not sold, no emails/calls
  • Wooden Radio Flyer Rocking Horse - $75 - not sold, no emails/calls
  • 1989 Honda Prelude - $1750 - lot's of interest, several people have come by, no firm offers to date
To date I have earned $45.  That's $45 more dollars then I had a week ago.

Apple Pie

Apples, apples.  Everywhere apples.

I've been trying out several pie crust recipes as a means to work through that huge load of apples we have.  I think I've finally settled on one ... unfortunately, I can't remember where I got it from.  I found the ones that incorporated egg to be a bit chewy, and not flakey enough.  This recipe has a very simple list of ingredients.  With all pie crusts, the results are very dependent on the execution of the recipe.  Cold is your friend - pastry dough loves to be cold.  Keep that in mind before considering pie making.

Pie Crust Ingredients:

Flour - 2 cups
Salt - pinch
Sugar - 1 tablespoon
Butter, cold - 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cubed
Ice/Cold Water - 4 to 8 tablespoons

Filling Ingredients:

Apples, peeled, cored, diced - 6, approximately
Sugar - 1/2 cup, approximately
Minute Tapioca - 1 tablespoon

Start with the pie crust ... you can even do this several days ahead (or keep the unrolled dough in the freezer for longer - just wrap well so it doesn't dry out).  Put all the dry ingredients in a good sized bowl.  Take your cold, cubed butter and start by tossing them in the dry ingredients.  Then, use your fingers to work the butter in.  You aren't trying to make the butter blend into the dry ingredients ... rather you are trying to break the butter into smaller pieces with some flour coating added to them.  Your goal is coarse crumbs.  If you overwork this part you'll end up with pastry that won't be very flakey.

Once you've got your coarse crumbs add one tablespoon of ice cold water - toss the flour mixture.  Continue adding water by tablespoons and tossing until the mixture is moistened, but not wet.  Form into a ball and flatten to a thick disk.  Wrap in Saran and put the disk into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  These steps might have sounded quick-quick.  They should be.  You want the pastry dough into the cold fridge as soon as possible.  [It's at this point that you can leave pie making to another day, week, or month.]

While the dough is chilling, prepare your filling.

Wash the apples.  Peel, cut into quarters, and take each quarter and remove the core.  Slice the cored quarter in half and then slice these halves into thin chunks.  Yes, this goes against that pretty slivered apple pie you might be envisioning ... but, really?  Chunks are far easier to cut through once the pie is baked.  The pie won't fall apart, it also cooks better, and it's easier to eat.  And ... it will still look lovely.

Now, add the sugar and tapioca to your cut up apples.  The sugar is an approximate measurement because it depends on the apples you are using and your personal taste.  If you are using tart apples you may well want a bit more sugar, if they are sweet (like mine were) go for less.  the tapioca will help bind the liquids from the cooking apple, making a nicer end product.  After adding the sugar and tapioca toss to coat ... you might even get in there with your hands because you really want everything well incorporated.
Now, you may have noticed that there is no cinnamon mixed in with the apples.  What sacrilege you might say.  I ... I prefer a simpler pie, free of other flavours that might overshadow the loveliness of the apple.  I urge you to try my approach.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Turn your oven to 400F to get it up to temperature.  Find your pie plate - you'll want it ready for when you need it.  I prefer a Pyrex (glass) one for pie baking.

Back to the fridge for your pastry dough.  Break it into 2/3 .. 1/3 (2/3 for the bottom, 1/3 for the top).  Lightly flour your work surface and use a good rolling pin - I use a marble rolling pin for pastry dough since it's heavy and colder than a wooden one.  Roll your 2/3 pastry to an even thickness.  Try to do this quickly.  This is the hard part where you have the greatest potential to ruin your dough by overworking it.  Somehow you need to get it thin enough and big enough to fit into your pie dish without toughening the dough.  Once it's big enough move it into your pie plate.  Don't worry if there are cracks and funky seams.  Patch where necessary by finding larger overhangs and cutting them to use elsewhere.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  It'll all bake up fine in the end.

Add your filling and then roll out the 1/3 remaining piece of pastry dough.  Place it on top and pinch the bottom and top portions together, creating little ripples with your fingers (some people use a fork, but I think the finger press looks more authentic).

Place the prepared pie in your oven for 45-60 minutes.  You want to see some bubbling happening, but you also want to make sure the pastry doesn't get too dark.  Some people use tin foil around the edges to help lessen this - that's your choice.

When it's ready, take it out to cool.  The cooling will allow the juices and tapioca to congeal nicely.  Of course, it's hard to resist a fresh pie.

We had unexpected guests show up within 30 minutes of this pie coming out of the oven.  Apparently it was delicious!

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Place for All the Baking Sheets

I do a lot of baking which means I have a lot of baking sheets, muffin tins, pizza trays, and other large, awkward pieces that are hard to store.  Up until recently I kept them in one of the bottom cupboards in the kitchen.  Every time I needed one of the cookie sheets (or something not even related to these cumbersome pieces, but stored nearby) I usually ended up with everything cascading out onto the floor or sliding sideways into other areas of the cupboard.  I'm sure you can relate.

If you wanted that third cookie sheet from the bottom?  Ouch.

Then, several months ago I bought one of Ina Garten's cookbooks.  You know Ina, right?  The Barefoot Contessa?  A wonderful cook, evoking elegance, grace, comfort, and friends and families.  I have five of her cookbooks now and have tried several recipes - all have been incredibly delicious.  From her "barefoot contessa how easy is that?" cookbook I found a great idea at the back of the book for keeping large kitchen pieces accessible - a large wicker basket kept near the kitchen prep area.

It seemed like such a good idea.  I tried it out by using a cardboard box - it worked like a charm.  Everything was accessible, nothing crashed.  It also meant that the space in the cupboards could be utilized much better.  A win-win.

Now that I knew it would solve our storage problems I needed to find a proper basket.  Sounded simple, but finding that perfect rectangular basket with enough height (but not too much) was more difficult than I originally thought.  There were a lot of baskets that were just too short, and others that were too tall and more like clothes hampers.  Finally, this week I found the perfect basket at my local London Drugs.  The Water Hyacinth Frameless Basket had a tag reading $9.99.  The price was right, but it was even better when I got to the checkout counter and found it was on sale for $5.99!

I moved everything from that temporary cardboard box to the new basket - everything fit perfectly.

There's still space to spare.

I'm really happy with this cheap, yet elegant solution.

Where do you keep your baking sheets?  Would you consider using a basket left out in the kitchen?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Selling on Craigslist

On my last post I ended with a few things that still needed selling.  These included:
  • a bike trailer
  • a bedrail guard
  • a foldable stroller
  • a digital baby scale
  • a folding dolly
Now, I've had some experience buying and selling on Craigslist and I peruse it quite a bit (I keep a running list of items that I'm interested in ... if the price, quality, and location are good).  I see a lot of good and bad ads.  All this to say I've developed some steps that I take when creating my own Craigslist posts.
  1. Put together as many facts about the items as is reasonable.  Who makes it, model #, year made/bought/age, original price, dimensions (not everything needs this, but if you'd want to know others will too - especially true with furniture that people will need to place in their homes), weight (if important), materials it is made from.  You might not need all these details, but it's good to have them on hand.
  2. Do some searching on-line to see if it is still sold new - if so, what's the price like now?  Does it seem popular?  Amazon reviews will give you a good idea what people think about your product.  Key phrases might pop up that you can use when writing your ad.
  3. Next, e-Bay.  If you don't have an account with them consider getting one because this gives you access to some information that the average person doesn't get to see - what things sold for (and what didn't sell).  This is known as Completed Listings.  These completed listings often give you a good idea for a price range.  It will also give you an idea of which ads work better - style, layout, descriptions used.
  4. Now, Craigslist.  See if your product is being posted by others.  What are they asking?  Is it similar to e-Bay prices?  (Note:  You could also look at Kijiji - I use Craigslist so I'm more comfortable remarking on it.)
  5. Take a few photos.  Yes, you need them.  Would you buy something without seeing it?  If there are multiple ads (and there usually are), do you go for the ones with photos first?  Me too.  So, take a few minutes to take some shots of what you want to sell - a few overview shots, some close-ups.  Try different angles.  The most important point I can make here is to get rid of as much personal background/detail as possible.  You don't want people thinking "Gross, that stuffed toy looks like it's been kept in the filthiest garage I've ever seen!" ... you want them to focus their attention on the item you are selling.  I've even used bed sheets to create a plain backdrop.  If all else fails try to find an image from the store you bought it from and copy that into your ad.
Once I have done all these steps I'm ready to create my ad. 

Let's try these steps out with the first item on my list - the bike trailer.

Bike Trailer Ad

I bought this trailer a few years ago thinking I would bike around with Walter in tow like all the other parents seemed to be doing in town.  Except ... it didn't really happen all that much.  Maybe three times?  I just felt really nervous with my precious little guy behind me and all these vehicles rushing past me.  At the time we lived in an area nearer to secondary businesses which meant lots of truck traffic - these made me even more nervous.  Suffice it to say the idea was a bust (although Walter loved it - he asked to go out every day!).  I kept the trailer thinking that when we moved I would use it.  Our new neighbourhood is very hilly, and there are no nearby bike paths.  I'd have to drive with the bike and trailer, park, hook up the trailer, get Walter and myself all geared up and then finally start biking.  Ah, nah.  Instead, I traded my bike - which I never really liked - for a DSi for Walter.

OK, so what did I pay for it new?  I bought it at Walmart for around $109 ... say with tax $120.  It now sells for $104 with a current pre-Christmas sell going on for $50.  Ouch!  Looking at e-Bay I see a price range of 54-200+ ... but the 200 plus ones are way swanker than mine.  The 54-74 range are closer to mine.  On Craigslist the swanky ones are going for 200+ also.  Not much under 100.  Despite the sale at Walmart I'm thinking $55.  This will give some wiggle room for potential buyers to negotiate (everyone likes to shave off a few dollars).  I did do a couple of photographs of the box.  I confess to not taking it out and setting it up.  So, I copied the photo from the Walmart website (something many people do).  If I have time on the weekend I'll set it up and take some more photos to make it more authentic.

So here would be my ad:

TITLE:  Triumph Bike Trailer Holds 2 Children - $55

PICTURE:  I usually take a few photos, including the box, manual, and an overall photo


When our son was younger he wanted to ride in this bike trailer every day!  Although it can hold two children, our son always had his stuffed toys, snacks, and water bottle taking up some of the space.  Still, we could likely have put a few bags of groceries in there too!

Now that our son is older we've outgrown the bike trailer ... time for our son to have his own bike.

Our loss is your gain.

Bike trailer has been kept in pristine condition, in a no-smoking, no-pet household.  We have the original box and owner's manual.

If you are interested call, text, or email Louise (cell ###.###.####)
 ... cash only

That's it.  I made the ad personal - which tends to draw people in.  I'm a person, not a crook.  The item being sold is mine, it wasn't stolen.  I included details that made it seem spacious (it is), and that my child liked it (which was true).  Having the original box and manual makes it sound like I looked after it (which I did).

I'm going to put it up now.  I'll let you know if my strategy works!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Getting Rid of Clutter

Back in June I had a goal of participating in a boot sale (sort of a group yard sale) to get rid of things we no longer had any use for or had outgrown.  It didn't happen.  The boot sale was organized for every other Saturday during the summer season.  Every time a boot Saturday was looming I either got sick (or someone else in the house did), or we were away, or some other event got in the way.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago (well into the fall season) I talked with the owner of Walter's out of school care program (OSC) to see if they would be interested in any of Walter's clothes, toys, books, and DVDs.  Turns out they were interested in most things.  The other day I managed to load everything into the back of the truck and drop by the OSC, and yes, they did take almost everything.

I went back home and looked at what remained.  Boxes of cups, dishes, knickknacks, curtains and curtain rods, lamp shades, clothes, and miscellaneous toys.  I loaded these into the back of the truck and headed out again.  There were a couple of thrift stores in our town - one for a hospice and one for teens.  As I drove along I thought about simply driving to the garbage dump and just getting rid of everything ... because what if neither thrift store was interested?  I finally talked myself into driving by the hospice thrift store.  I had already read their website and knew that they took drop-offs at the back of the shop.  I drove around back and a nice lady told me to back it up and drop it off.  In the end there were only three things that they wouldn't take - a Bob-the-Builder pillow, a stuffed dog backpack, and some old ski boots.  I put the pillow and stuffed dog in the back seat of the truck, figuring they could be left there for travel times.  That left me with just the ski boots which I'll see if my friends husband will take (he takes sporting equipment, cleans them up, and re-sales them).

Yes, I could likely have made a few dollars with the boot sale, but in the end I just couldn't organize myself.  The pressure of all that stuff sitting in piles in the basement was getting to me, and donating took that pressure away and gave me a feeling of giving back.  Since I'd already spent the money on these items long ago the money was already gone.  The potential for getting a few dollars wasn't enough incentive for me - my time was more important to use in other ways.  I'm sure if we didn't have jobs with good salaries I would have been more committed to accomplishing this goal, but it obviously wasn't the money I needed.

I did keep a few things.

These were bigger things that I figure I can put on Craigslist (except for the car seat - I'm not sure what I'll do with that).

What do you do with things you no longer need or use?  Do you think it's important to make money on them or is donating a valid option?

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Halloween 2013

I hope everyone had a lovely Halloween.  We certainly did ... only 27 children came trick or treating at our door, but we'd been told only to expect 5-6 so I figured this was a success.

Walter had a great time - he and Dad headed out just as it was starting to get dark and, according to Manuel, Walter ran from house to house.  He definitely had the whole bad-cop attitude going.

I think our house looked pretty good, too.  We had our tombstone near the doorbell (it has a motion-sensor on it so when somebody gets close it starts screaming and splits open to reveal a glowing-eyed skeleton).  To make it extra spooky we had our ghetto blaster set to repeat on a CD with howling, chain-rattling, heart-thumbing sounds.

A few days prior the whole family had carved some of the pumpkins, and Walter and I painted a few to add a bit more character.

Definitely a good first Halloween in our new home.