Did you know that you can now go to the opportunity shop online?

When looking up store locations for Good Sammy’s in Perth (while, I have to admit, I should have been finding something more work-related to do in my most recent boring temp job) I discovered that Good Sammy’s has an online store!

You can search by type of clothes, and by size.  They have men’s, women’s, children’s, and both clothing and footwear – and even swimwear  – up for sale.

 Lounge.Dusty Pink Two (2) Piece Skirt & Jacket.RRP $319. Size 10

They seem to have selected ‘label’ clothes to be sold on the website, although I’ve never heard of most of the ‘labels’ (but then, my knowledge of labels is pretty much gleaned from actual physical shops I’ve seen, rather than magazines which perhaps feature a broader range?)

I guess the problem is that you can’t try anything on, and the prices do seem to be a bit higher than in the actual shop, and there’s no chance of going in for a black top and coming out with a new vintage teacup… but I for one was very pleased to be able to browse an online shop while bored at work but actually look at the kind of clothes I actually buy (ie secondhand)!

Nice and witchy…

I already held a mammoth garage sale last October, over a long weekend, Friday much-earlier-than-I-expected-in-the-morning to Sunday afternoon. This July garage sale was the result of a kind of ‘second round’ cull which was gradually filling the cupboard under the stairs, as I’ve gone through a more tinkering, absent-minded, this-and-that, second-and-third thoughts driven decluttering which I’ve continued to do after the ragingly dedicated declutter that I took up as and after I finished the thesis (in hindsight, it was quite a good idea to have this lesser obsession ready to take over).

Stuff waiting to go out.

I had been meaning to have my ‘shed, spare-room and under the stairs’ garage sale for weeks… and weeks… and weeks … and kept putting it off because to advertise it properly you have to remember to call Quokka the Thursday before the Thursday before the weekend of the sale itself.

So then in the first weekend of July I finally remembered early enough on the Thursday, and booked my garage sale! I went all out, sending an ad to the Quokka, and paying for ads in both the local papers, the Subi Post (which I did last time) and the Western Suburbs Weekly (last time I missed the deadline). I probably wouldn’t do the WSW again though, as the same ad cost TWICE as much as the ad for the post.

I didn’t get around to posting my online ads until the Friday before the sale, but I did post one on both Quokka online and Gumtree. It seemed to work. I had SOOOO many people through (including lots who looked around and didn’t buy anything. It may actually have been a bit sparse. But oh well).

I decided I would only do the sale for one day of the weekend, and that I would make it from 7am, since the last time, when I made it from 8, a couple people turned up at 6:30 or so anyway. And I put it until 3 in the afternoon, again, as it seems to be more of a morning.

I was looking forward to spending my unemployed mornings (which I guess actually means late-morning-to-afternoons) brushing stuff off, pricing it, washing the individual Barbie clothes and putting each outfit in a different sleeve of a plastic folder…

Then I actually got some temp work for the rest of the week! So the ONLY time I had to cart everything out into the garage, clean it, price it, set it up – oh, and clean the garage and sweep up the piles of leaves in the driveway – was Friday night after work.

Here is me setting up in the night-black cold:

I pushed my cold to the back of my head, made a nice round ball of jumpers around myself, pulled down J’s lovely arctic felt hat on my head and set to – in the single-bulb light of the garage with the outer door pulled down for the illusion of warmth. And so the neighbours didn’t see the crazy lady sorting her junk in the middle of the night.

Stuff is fun!

Look at my lightsaber!

At around 6:20 in the morning, I went to do the most important thing, which is put the signs out. I was just using the signs I had leftover from the previous garage sale, which J had made and put out for me. As he had made them with arrows pointing in particular directions according to the special spots in Claremont he had picked for them, me putting them out involved a pretty hilarious amount of turning them around and turning myself around to face the way the oncoming cars would.

While I was involved in this not-so-easy exercise, they came. The Usuals. One guy in particular, the earliest, assured me with dawn-shattering jollity that he had remembered that I had opened early last time, so he had turned up early just for me. I. Wanted. To. Punch. Him. I remembered that time too, when, stressed about set up and bewildered by the early hour, I had to let strangers into my garage and start answering questions about prices when all I wanted to do was get organised and make a coffee. This is why I had moved the opening time to 7am instead of 8 … AND THEY TURNED UP EARLY ANYWAY.

It is a bit hard to run a garage sale when you are so very much not a morning person.

Anyway, I managed not to commit assault, and really, the guy and his silent woman friend and the other guy who turned up on a bicycle seemed happy to move around like ghosts in the dim morning twilight, dimmer in the garage, holding torches up to my not-even-priced yet collection of stuff. It looked very strange as I ghosted in and out myself, lugging cardboard boxes weighed down with bricks, walking back to them down the long long driveway and seeing them barely lit up by the single bulb in the garage.

I witnessed a beautifully surreal moment when one of the strangers in my garage, while moving awkwardly around the still-crammed stuff, had to jostle past another man, who clapped him on the shoulder and spoke a soft greeting. The other guy, who had come in silently and head down, not looking at anyone, acknowledged the familiarity, returned the greeting, and then turned back to the Stuff again – what was so strange was not to witness a moment when two strangers revealed themselves to be not strangers (but fellow garage-sale combers who met each other at every sale) – but to seen how then they stepped back into being strangers again, quite comfortably.

Later in the day another woman actually adopted me into the family of the Usuals, because she remembered that I had had a garage sale before, and talked to me in enthusiastic irritation about the same issue, that the only downside of being a seller is your customers. (To be fair, I only had one brief pre-coffee moment of this feeling in the dark of the morning). I was kind of flattered to be considered a “seller” and invited wholeheartedly into the politics of the game (who knew?), but also had one of those moments of not knowing whether to feel amused or annoyed when the same lady told me off for not having a sign on a certain part of Stirling Highway and insisted on me making one that she would take down and set up for me. See, stranger being nice, could be charming … but lady taking up half an hour bitching about other people and then telling me what to do in my own home… kinda uncomfortable-making.

The world really comes to you when you open up your home to it, even if all that you open is the garage door!

(Later in the afternoon a girl and her Dad who bought armfuls of the last of my stuff for about $5 went around in her cute little bomb of a student car and collected all my signs for me … and then gathered up another couple armfuls for $3. That was just strangers being nice, I felt).

The other best part of the garage sale came right at the end, when I was just headed off to collect my signs again (before the student girl & her Dad saw me lugging them and went off to get them for me), and I was even going to close up the garage. My neighbour, an old lady from across the road, called in to see if I would sell her the white painted bookshelf to use as a shelf in her laundry. “I just had to see if it would fit… I’ve been watching you all day!”

The lady was so perfect in her jacket and coif and brooch and scarf, and her tweed/check pants with their thread of yellow in them.  I was exhausted by then, but cheerfully – a little maniacally- I insisted on carrying the wooden shelf up the stairs to her apartment. I’ve always been quite interested in the lamps & other décor I could glimpse through her big windows, which face our driveway; to get a glimpse of her house was such a treat. It was so perfect, dark-polished and picture-hung, so hushed, so arranged, all carpeted with  shining furniture and a cabinet full of delicate glass and porcelain. The space in the laundry where a shelf was needed really was the only disharmonious note in the whole place!

I carried the shelf up the steps and into the apartment block and into the lift and out the lift and through the door into the apartment and to the bathroom-cum-laundry, where there was not a chance it would fit. Then I carried it back out and into and out and down again, and back down my driveway into the garage – and then bounced over the debris of the sale, raced into my lounge room, tipped half our DVD collection out onto the floor and brought out a different white-painted shelf I thought would fit. I just felt to dedicated to making the perfect apartment the most perfect it could be! Also I was a bit crazy with sheer exhaustion. The nice lady gave me a whole $10 for what was a very crappy old shelf, and it was my last sale of the day.

Of course, the best part of the garage sale is how people give you money AND they take away your crap.

So here are my wares:

I set up mostly inside this time, in fear of rain.

But I still managed to line the driveway with cool stuff:

It does seem to look a bit sparse, doesn’t it? Especially compared to last time. Less furniture for sale, too. And I left a few things in the house & shed because I never got time to run back in for them!
This time around I actually sold heaps and heaps of clothes – I recommend pricing clothes for a garage sale at $3 for everything; it seemed to really work.

Sunday I was exhausted – I slept from just after the end of the garage sale (4pm) until late in the afternoon! J thought it was hilarious that I’d taken my takings to bed with me. But I wanted to count it!

Sylvanscribe from Wandering Womb once pointed out to me that all of the recipies she had actually cooked out of a favourite cookbook were the ones with a photograph of the dish opposite… and just like that I realised I had never actually cooked a recipe that had no photograph next to it!

It’s always the goal, isn’t it? Taste aside, I’m always measuring the merit of the finished meal against the luminous picture in the cookery book.

Alice Hart’s Vegetarian is one of my favourite cookbooks and it has a picture for every recipe. And here is a picture of my sambal olek alongside the illustrated one:

Huh?! Yeah.

More recently, I cooked a couple south Indian dishes and while I didn’t take a picture of the cookbook, it looks pretty similar…

Do you consciously or unconciously rate the success of the dinner on its likeness to its picture?

This is a blog about frugal living in Australia.

I’m someone who aspires to prudence, thrift, frugality, and an abundant vegie patch, but I struggle with the basics (like budgeting!) and with my excellent early training into a being a good indivdual and consumer.

I love to cook, which is a good start on a frugal lifestyle, but I’m not someone who has any talent/desire to ‘craft’, or handy, or sew. So my great house-improvement projects have so far be limited in scope to scrounging, cleaning, painting, and potting. But you can get pretty far with a can of electric-blue spraypaint and some rainbow chard seedlings from the hardware store.

Spraypaint

Blue Table photo

This is my absolute favourite of any of my upcycled furniture projects. I always loved this set of mahogany-stained nested tables that my parents brought with them from Melbourne to Adelaide to Cairns. When they got wobbly and in the way and Mum finally wanted to throw them out, I rescued them and brought them home. Where they continued to be wobbly and in-the-way, and also very fussy and old-fashioned looking. The mixture of textures and styles – and especially of woodgrains – that marked our hodgepodge of hand-me downs was starting to get to me, so I adapted an idea from a Real Living magazine for spraypainting a fussy wooden-backed chair in a vibrant modern paint colour.

I brought home a sample pot of “Wing Commander Blue” from Bunnings, borrowed an electric sander to strip off the varnish (but ended up using a sandpaper ‘sponge’ and elbow grease instead) and dipped my table in a bright new hue. Now I love the contrast of fussy old-worldy and funky devil-may-care blue. I also feel that somehow the deep electric blue colour defies the horribly ugly bluey-green carpet in some small way.

The hugely important thing about this project is that it required no craft skills or aptitude for design. Just the ability to like a pretty colour, and the willingness to get covered in specks of mahogany varnish-dust.

Silverbeet

Since I was about 12 years old, I have been trying to grow things. Sacred plants and herbs for witches’ teas and tisanes, food herbs and edible flowers, fairy flowers and finally, after a happy day of hammering together some vegie crates (and a happy second day of the weekend when I read my book and Dad finished off the crates) a full-blown ‘vegie garden’.

I moved out of home and reclaimed bites and chunks of the grassy back garden of our sharehouse for every kind of kitchen herb, nastirtums, zucchini, spinach, tomato, passionfruit, and peas, and when I ‘moved in’ (a different life experience from ‘moving out’) I dealt with the courtyard back-garden by lining pots in stripes along every edge (and then adding another layer and another; in some places it’s three pots deep!)

But all in all, despite my groaning shelves of books on herbalism and organic gardening and the history of vegetables and medieval flower gardens, I’ve pretty much always harvested my grown food by the handful rather than the bushel.  Summer harvest

Despite crop rotation, seasonally grown vegetables, companion planting, and even thinning out ( I hate thinning out), I still listen glumly when I hear others grumbling about their glut.

In all that time and all those pots in all those different gardens, I’ve never had the experience of growing food in abundance.

Except for the one plant that always returns, unfolding in dark green wrinkles.

If I plant silverbeet (and if I have planted at any point in time) then there’s always some silverbeet in the garden, always enough to harvest for a meal, and then for the next night and the next, and if not the next then at least the week after that. A forceful slice of the scissors or a quick sharp pull at the bottom of the plant produces crunchy spicy stalks and shiny leaves for the pot or the pan.

Silverbeet is easy to grow, it thrives on neglect but will also put up with well-meaning bouts of feeding and regular watering, and it is a prince among cut-and-come again vegies. It’s the staple of my garden, and adding it to just about anything makes it feel healthier, and homegrown.

What plant do you find you can always rely on in the garden?

Summer Harvest 2009