September 30, 2014

Doing the Baby2 Nursery Scramble

Not looking like a nursery. Nope, not a bit.
We found out last week that Baby2 will be arriving early--I'll be induced the week of Thanksgiving so we've only got eight weeks left to get everything ready rather than nine. The doctor even pointed this out to me when I mentioned we haven't finished the nursery yet.

Ok, it's really not even started. I know what I want to put in the nursery, we just don't have it all yet and nothing is complete. There's a big pile of baby things I have gotten along with guest room stuff, Christmas presents for M2 and who knows what else in there. Not to mention all the stuff crammed in the closet, from my wedding dress to toiletries. That means A and I are going to be super busy getting it all done so Baby2 has some place to sleep other than a dresser drawer in a guest room. And so that what is in there now has a new home elsewhere in the house.

Baby2's nursery theme is nautical. We know that much at least! Ships, boat gear (is "gear" the right word for boat-related stuff?), sea critters, beach stuff--if it's water-related, it fits in. I want it to feel calm yet fun. Nursery yet not too babyish, something that will last awhile. M2 still loves her nursery, which is an animal theme.

We have a lamp! I love the cute boats.
Last week, we finally picked out a stack of possible paint colors (probably about 30) that we need to narrow down to 4 to test on the walls. M2 and I eliminated four so far. Anything she didn't like, she happily ripped up and threw around the living room. The color is going to be beachy, but not blue as we have too much of that in the house already. The room is at the end of the hall so we also want it to blend in enough that it's not jarring but still have it's own style. I love the color we have in the room now. Sadly, it's too pink to fit for a boy or a nautical theme!

Once we paint, we need to get a crib, decorations, diaper pail, hamper, etc. Plus a rug to cover M2's bleach toilet cleaner carpet art.  I also need to find a wooden letter of Baby2's first initial to paint, a tradition I started with M2's big pink glittery M. Baby2's shelf is one A's dad made him when he was a kid. The changing table was M2's and the bookcase was my aunt's so those we have. Good friends gave us a chest of drawers this weekend as well, checking that off the needed-items list. We have some blankets, sheets, clothes, a lamp and a few things to decorate the room that belonged to A's mom and A. As you can tell, I like to incorporate furniture and items that have meaning and belonged to people we care about. It makes it feel more special. M2's room and the rest of the house is the same. I love the look of mixing old with new.

By the way, we do have a name picked for Baby2 but are waiting until he's born to share it with family and friends. For the blog, he'll get a special nickname like the rest of us have.
There's no crib yet, but Baby2 has adorable sheets I got on sale.
M2 picked and LOVES the blanket on the left. It's her present for her new brother.

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September 23, 2014

Ways to be a Good Online Yard Sale Seller

My last post (here) was about what to do to be a good buyer on online yard sales. It goes both ways, though. You've got to be a good seller, too. Here are some of the things I've come up with to be a good seller. I'd love for you to chime in with a comment about what you'd add to this list or with a story. Stories are always fun to read.
  1. List the price and size. Don't make people ask, you'll probably lose buyers because they don't want to waste their time trying to find out. Also, don't lie about the size. It doesn't even make sense to and there's no reason for it.
  2. Include/offer pictures or price accordingly. When you sell online, people are buying stuff sight unseen. At least post, or offer, pictures so people have an idea what they're getting. If you're not going to give pictures, such as saying, "here's a big bag of random clothes!" at least offer a good, honest, description and price it lower since people have no idea what in the world is really in that bag.
  3. Be honest. If something is horribly stained, broken or damaged, don't sell it. Don't try to pass something off as being in better condition than it is. If you're selling a huge bunch of clothes, for example, and a couple have little stains price it lower. When someone asks a question about an item, tell the truth! Also, if an item is cross posted, say so in your ad. I doubt you'd want to buy a toaster that doesn't even heat up. I really don't think your buyer will want to, either.
  4. Show up/don't back out last minute. When you set a time and place to meet, show up. Don't make the buyer wait 10, 15, 20 minutes for you, either. The buyer is taking their time to meet you, don't waste their time by flaking out on them. If you're not going to be able to meet, don't tell the buyer you can. If there's a chance you can't meet, tell the buyer up front so they can decide if they want to bother with it. Don't waste their time. If an emergency does come up and you can't meet the buyer, tell them right away. Apologize and offer to meet at another time that is convenient for them. Try to make it right. There have been a few times that I've gone to buy an item and the seller wasn't there, didn't notify me and never even bothered to answer my message asking what had happened. 
  5. List the pickup location. If you're not willing to drive to wherever your seller is, say up front in your ad where pickup is. That way you're not wasting a buyer's time, getting them excited about an item, only for them to find out it's way too far to drive. It'll also save you the hassle of having to answer a million questions about the location. If you don't list the location, you pretty much deserve those million questions.
  6. Be upfront about meeting times. When you're at the point of setting up a time and place to meet, tell the buyer the days and times you're available. Don't make them suggest a million different times that you're just going to shoot down. 
  7. Get back to people. If an item has already sold, tell the person. If they're next in line, let them know that. If their offer is way too low, tell them (nicely!) what price you can do. Get back to them in a timely manner as well. Don't make them wait days. If you do, you'll probably also lose the sale along with being rude. Also remember to delete your ad once something sells, then you won't have to worry about getting back to someone.
  8. If you say it must be gone ASAP, be more flexible. If you want an item gone right away, be willing to meet buyers right away. Don't turn around and tell them you can't meet for a week after you said the item has to be gone NOW.
  9. Bring change or tell the buyer exact cash only. Don't expect buyers to always have exact change. Not everyone has dominations for every combination hanging about their wallet. If you need exact cash, tell the buyer so. Before you meet them. Don't cause an awkward situation when you meet by not having change.
  10. If an item needs a dolly, large vehicle, someone to lift it, say so. When you sell a large item, let people know how big it is in the ad, what type of vehicle they'll need, and if they need to lift it. It's annoying for you both if they show up only to find out they can't meet these requirements because you didn't tell them. Staring at a coach that won't fit in the buyer's SUV just makes them see red and you're not going to see the green.
  11. Send a reminder. The day before you're scheduled to meet the buyer, send them a nice reminder/confirmation of pickup day, time, location along with the item and agreed price. People are busy and it shouldn't be the buyer's job to track you down to confirm.
  12. Be fair. Give the buyer a fair amount of time to pick up the items. Try to work with them on pickup day/time. Don't commit to one buyer and dump them if another offers more money. Go in the order of people who expressed interest and give them a chance to respond to you. Don't skip Sally because you like Debbie's name better. Being fair also means pricing items reasonably. Don't try to sell something that's worth $5 for $10. It just annoys everyone and you aren't going to be able to sell it anyway.
And, as with buying, Treat others how you want to be treated. Consider things from the buyer's side. I doubt you'd want a buyer to not show up, cancel last minute, ignore your messages, be rude to you, etc. I also doubt you'd want to buy something just to find out it's not useable or not what was in the picture. Don't do it to someone else.

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Ways to be a Good Online Yard Sale Buyer

Online yard (or tag) sales are taking the place of the traditional yard sales left and right. Tons of these sites can be found on Facebook. You can sell almost anything to clear out your house and make some money. You'll also find some really good deals on things you need, including kid's clothes and toys.

I've been a member of a few sale groups for awhile and have family and friends who also participate. Right now, I'm seeing what selling is like first hand while selling M2's out-grown clothes. Baby2's nursery furniture, decor and clothes add up and we needed the extra cash to help pay for it. Plus, M2's old clothes were taking up space as I still had everything of hers from newborn to now.

You'd be amazed how many people "forget" they were buying an item, don't read the ad, have you hold an item and then back out last minute, say they have no money yet still want you to give them the items, suddenly have no money after setting a price/pickup time/location yet are buying from others, etc. There were so many emergencies, fires and family members dying that I started to wonder if there was an epidemic I hadn't heard about raging through the area. There are, of course, sales that went off without a hitch and very nice people that I met. It wasn't all bad. I really appreciate those people and hope a good deal helped them out, too.

Armed with the knowledge of what I and others have experienced, I thought I'd share some ways to be a good buyer. Following these rules will help make a better sale experience for everyone. Seriously, none of use want to be one of "those" people, do we? After reading, feel free to comment with some of your own to add. I'd love to hear your stories.

  1. Read the ad. If the ad says where the meeting location is, that the price is firm, lot will not be broken up, etc., pay attention to that. Wasting the seller's time asking a million questions and for more pictures, then telling them, "Oh, that's too far for me to go,"  "I'll give you $1 (when they asked for a firm $10)," or saying you only want 2 of the 10 items in the not-to-be-broken-up lot doesn't go over well. Be respectful of the seller's, and your, time.
  2. Serious inquiries only. If you're not seriously interested in the item and planning to buy it, don't waste the seller's time asking lots of questions, for more pictures, to change pickup location, etc. There's really no point in it. 
  3. Don't low ball. If a seller has a price listed, that tells you the price range they'll take for the item. Knocking off a few bucks from the asking price (if it doesn't say firm) is expected. Offering way below is insulting and the seller probably won't take you seriously. If you're not willing to pay within the range of the listed price, look elsewhere. 
  4. Avoid giving a sob story. Giving the seller a sob story about why you must have the item, at an insultingly low price and have them drive two hours to drop it off gift-wrapped at your doorstep isn't a good idea. If you don't have the money for the item or can't pick it up, don't try to guilt the seller into giving it to you and/or dropping it off. You may have a good reason why you can't spend more and/or can't go to a certain location, but the seller has set that price and pickup location for a reason. Realize the seller may be in just as bad of a situation and selling so they can pay for needed items for their child/sick aunt/neighbor who is on hard times. Guilting the seller just makes them feel bad that they can't help you. And sure as heck don't make it up! I think all but one or two people of about 25 haven't given me a sob story. At this point, it's hard to believe anyone anymore. 
  5. Show up when you say you will. When you agree to a time and location, show up. It's that simple. Don't not show up or show up late, expecting the seller to wait. It wastes the seller's time and gas. The seller likely had to make arrangements to meet you, they have lives, too. If the seller has to try to track you down to find out where you were after waiting, that's not cool. Should you accidentally forget, contact the seller right away, apologize, and offer to get the items in the near future at a time convenient for the seller. You messed up and need to make it right. 
  6. No holds. If you can't pick up the item in a few days, don't expect the seller to hold if for you for a week or two weeks. If they are kind enough to do that, don't then back out last minute. The seller was counting on you and may have lost a sale while you were tying them up. If you can't pick up an item soon, you can ask the seller to keep you in mind if it's still available. Be sure to start out with that, though, don't hide the fact. One woman asked me to hold items for three weeks after saying she really wanted it and negotiating price, pick up time and location!
  7. Buy the items you commit to buying/don't back out last minute. Even worse, don't have the seller have to contact you to find out you've changed your mind and wasted their time. Honor the commitment you made. I've had at least half the people who committed to buying items back out last minute. Only one bothered to contact me, the rest I had to contact. After flaking out once, one person set up another pickup time (a last-minute no notice thing), then tried to guilt me into taking less money when I'd already knocked a lot off for her on top of all the rest.
  8. If something comes up, notify the seller immediately. If you do have an actual emergency (don't lie about it!) let the seller know right away. Not showing up or having the seller try to confirm then you tell them is plain rude. Be sure to apologize and offer to get the item in the near future at a time convenient for the seller, or if you can no longer get it, let them know. Try to make the situation right.
  9. Be willing to meet at the specified pickup location. This goes back to reading the ad. If the ad doesn't say what the pickup location is, ask. If you don't know where that location is, Google it first. If you could meet in a nearby location, it's ok to ask if the seller would be able to do that. Just don't bother them with questions, asking for a lower price, more pictures, etc., then bring up the location issue. It just wastes your time and the seller's. It also makes the seller less inclined to help you since you weren't up front with them.
  10. Pay the agreed upon price. Agreeing on the price then asking the seller to go lower is a big no-no.
  11. Apologize. If you do screw up, apologize. Don't blow it off or act like the seller should just be ok with it.
  12. If you say you'll get back to someone, get back to them. It's already annoying when you ask for possible pickup times, set a location, agree on a price, then say you'll get back to the seller. It's even more annoying when you never do.
This one is so important it doesn't get a number. Treat others how you want to be treated. This is a big and should go without saying. Instead of just thinking of yourself, think of the seller, too. Would you like it if they didn't show up or cancelled last minute? All of a sudden raised the price on you? Wasted your time? Listed an item for sale but can't meet for a week or more? If you wouldn't be ok with it, don't do it to someone else. It'll make the world a happier place to buy and sell.

Sidenote: Sellers need to do their part, too! Here are things you can do to be a good seller.

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September 14, 2014

Cooking with M: What's for Dinner?

It's cooling down which means it's time for more hearty dinners. It's no longer a huge deal if the oven is on a while, yay!

American sausage pierogi with green beans

Slow cooker pulled BBQ chicken, corn bread and leftover green beans

Steak, baked potato and veggies


Pork stirfry

Mushroom and broccoli chicken over rice

Beef roast, parsley buttered potatoes and mixed veggies

Red, Orange, and Yellow Bring a Chill to the Air

Fall is my favorite season. The time from September to early January is simply the best time of year. The heat and mugginess start to dissipate as clean, cool, crisp air takes the stage. Windows can be left open to air out the house without fear of stifling heat.

Brilliant colors of fall.
Where we live in Virginia, we see the trees change from green to red, orange, yellow and brown. The colors slowly spread across the mountains getting more vibrant until they disappear, telling us it's almost time for Christmas. The view outside our windows is spectacular. On drives through the area, the fall leaves on the backdrop of clear, strinking blue sky is simply amazing. Almost nightly we smell bonfires. Our fire pit will be making its own debut soon.

Family photo while apple picking last fall.
When the leaves start to change, it also means apple season is back. It's a family tradition to go apple picking each year. Last year was M2's first time. She couldn't get enough of it. We went a bunch of times to stock up on eating and baking apples. I love making my apple crisp and bread (A loves eating them). Our favorite orchard is up in Winchester, Va. Along with the orchard, it has has pumpkins, a bake shop with amazing apple cider donuts, ice cream, fudge and other goodies, plus a playground for the kids. I can't wait to go in October.
Lovely red leaves in the yard.
I love Halloween. It's a magical time, connecting us to the past and the future. In some cultures and traditions, the October 31 marks the start of the new year, rather than January 1. M2 already has her costume and will have her second crack at trick-or-treating. Last year, she wasn't so sure about it. This year, she should be much more into it. After Thanksgiving, we have Thanksgiving to look forward too, then Christmas.

Decorating for all is just as fun. I pull out all the harvest, pumpkin, leaf and other decorations we have, including the fall-scented candles. Just as fun is knowing that once these decorations come down, all the Christmas decorations will be going up. Falls starts months of beautiful decorations, family time, traditions, our wedding anniversary, birthdays and holidays. It's the time of year to spend with family who are here and remember those who have passed on. It's also a time to make new memories to carry with us through the years.

Looking out over the mountains.
This year, Baby2's appearance will be added to the list of anticipated events. All the things we have to do to get ready for his arrival, including decorating and setting up the nursery, will add to the business of this time of year. Yet, while fall is always busy, it always has a calmness the rest of the year doesn't. It's a feeling I love and look forward to each year. How it can be so busy yet calm at the same time, I'll never know. Maybe it's secret magic hidden in the leaves of the trees, taking over the land as the colors spread.

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September 7, 2014

What's for Dinner?

This week I've got a nice, big case of cook's block. I seriously can't think of what to make for one night, let alone a week! Luckily, I've got a handy list of go-to foods I can make. Writing out the menu also helps kickstart my cooking juices. Let's see what I can come up with.

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and veggies

Pork chops, couscous and veggies

Green salad

Black beans, rice and ground beef with cheese

Sausages and veggies

Herb chicken, baked potatoes and veggies

September 4, 2014

My Parenting Style

M2 looking cute posing for a picture.
Before M2 was born, I didn't read many books about parenting. I did have the "What to Expect When You're Expecting" standard requirement for pregnancy, which doesn't have much about parenting after baby is born. My preference was to read magazines, like Parents, read articles online and check out blogs from real moms. A and I had a few ideas we knew wanted to stick to as parents. A big part of our parenting is taking things as they come, going with the tide rather than against. As new situations arise, we do what we think is best at the time. Overall, I'm a more hands-on parent, as is A. We work to strike a balance between being hands-on and being too hands-off. Being what's known as a helicopter parent isn't something that works for us or that we want for our family. Like pretty much everything in life, it's about moderation.

Running around exploring new things at the children's museum.
At the park, we're close by to watch in case she falls (or starts making a beeline to the side of the play equipment that is high up yet not blocked so she can just fall off the side). We're not RIGHT on top of her and still let her do her own thing. She has space to play, try new things and explore while being safe. When she's older, we'll move farther away but still plan to be in the area to keep an eye out.

It's a similar deal at the playtime at the library we go to. We keep her in eyesight while she runs around with the other kids. Even if she takes a toy from another child or another child takes one from her, we let it go so they can work it out. Now, if she's about to run out the door, do something dangerous or she/someone else is getting too rough, then we're there to step in. We want her to know we're there if she needs us and be able to provide encouragement along the way. Just as importantly, we want her to have the confidence to do and try things on her own.

Checking out the waterfall and pond at the Beardsley Zoo.
At home, it's the same "hands-on-with-space" style. We have a routine for days we're home which may change when there are errands, events or playdates. It's not a rigid schedule, we have wiggle room. This allows M2 to have the schedule kids need while still learning to be flexible for the days life is super busy.

In our house M2 plays where A or I can see her. She's not old enough yet to play by herself in her room. There are a few play areas in the house so she can be close enough to us that we can keep an eye out. I let her do her own thing playing so she has freedom to be creative and spend time playing with her as well. She knows I'm nearby in case she needs help (or is getting into something she shouldn't). While she plays I tell her the words for her toys, describe the colors on the toys or make other comments to help improve her speaking. Not constantly, but here and there so she has interaction. When she gets frustrated when something doesn't work right away, I encourage her to keep trying. If she needs help with it, I tell her to come ask for help. She's learning to be independent but also that it's ok to ask for help when she needs it.

We take time throughout the day during various activities to encourage M2 to learn new words and develop communication skills. TV isn't on much (which I've talked about in other posts, if you want to read more) so the focus stays on playing and movement. M2 loves when I play music for her during the day, including everything from oldies and classical to modern and kid songs.  Of course, I can't be doing things one-on-one with her all day. While she eats breakfast and has coloring time, I clean the kitchen and do other household chores until she's finished. I really look forward to her being a bit older and able to do more crafts, baking, learning and creative activities. I always rip out fun ideas from magazines and bookmark kid-related activities for when she reaches that age. My plan is to have these activities mixed in with her free-play time when she's at the right stage. As she grows, we'll reevaluate how we do things and make changes as needed. Every age brings new and exciting adventures in childhood--and parenting.
Everyone needs a push on the swing!

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