Food, Lifestyle

Cook up some yard sale magic

Find the recipe for a yard sale picnic below.


I’ve begun to lose faith in yard sales.

Not as a consumer — I still love to discover wonderful surprises I can take home for a dollar or two, and my walls at home include work from amateur artists that is expressive and well-crafted, but cost only $5 or $10.

But as a seller, as the person who organizes the stuff, puts it out on display, does the marketing and then sits and waits for people to arrive, or not, it seems to be getting less lucrative.

I gave it another shot this holiday weekend, setting up shop in the little driveway in front of my packed garage, open for business on both Saturday and Sunday. This was a different effort, as I had “helpers,” my two grandsons, age 9 and 11, who love making money. When they noticed that I had been organizing the garage lately, they became curious. “What are you doing, Noni?” When they learned that it had to do with making money, they became very interested.

I promised them a 10 percent cut if they would partner with me. Suddenly, everything in the garage looked perfect for resale. No, I needed the gardening tools, I explained, and those extra chairs hanging on the hooks, they are important when we have more than six for dinner, so they can’t be part of the yard sale, I explained.

For the past three weeks, whenever they were in the mood, we spent time in the garage — sorting, discarding, pricing, mostly with Ethan. Nick, the 9-year-old, is harder to get off of his scooter and focused on a project.

It gave me optimism having them involved, as they tend to get better results doing “pop-up” businesses than do I.  

A few years ago, the house at the end of the street was being remodeled. If you asked me, I would have totaled and rebuilt the structure, but nevertheless there were several workers every day working on the project. Nicky, 5 at the time, suggested we have a lemonade stand. My job would be to provide a table, an umbrella, make some brownies and cookies — “always a good thing Noni” — make the lemonade, provide plasticware and set up a “bank.” They would make a few signs — “Luminade 25 sents” was one, I recall, from Nick.

The sign worked just fine. Ninety-five percent of our customers were the workers from the renovation, given that we were essentially blocking the door to the house. As soon as break time came, the workers poured out of the house and were very sweet — buying everything we had.

There was a time when Legos were everywhere. Both boys were building them, and I began having nightmares about tripping over and being smothered by them. There were boxes of various pieces, in various colors, hundreds of them. Let’s wash them, I suggested, which appealed to my germ-phobic daughter (their mother), and bag them and sell them off! We filled 48 bags, weighing about a half-pound each. We would sell them for a dollar a bag.

My friend Marilyn, the owner of the lovely Vidalia produce and gourmet shop in Beverly Farms, agreed that we could set up shop in front of her store. She obliged us further with a table and chairs, so we were ready and opened for business. It was a very hot day though, and after a few minutes I left Nick alone for a moment to get an umbrella so I wouldn’t melt from the scorching sun. When I returned a few minutes later I noticed a fancy car in front of the shop and then saw Nick and a man I didn’t recognize chatting.

“He wants all the bags Noni, is that OK?” It took several weeks to prepare for this moment and just five minutes to reap the reward. Nicky made $48 and never got over how easy it was.

A few years earlier at the very same spot, older brother Ethan, then 7, wanted to make some money.  I had a cookie cutter in the shape of a dog biscuit, so we decided to dip a paw into the gourmet dog food business. I found a recipe for dog treats (I’m generally focused on feeding humans) and we forged a plan to make the biscuits together. He made a sign — “dog biskits 75 cents” — that I still have.

There was one small problem we had overlooked.  Ethan was afraid of dogs.  Everyone who came by had a dog on a leash, and with each one Ethan quickly stepped inside the store and I was left to be the seller of the “biskits.”  Ethan, who loves to draw, also made a few batman figures and sold them for a dollar each and that day we made $75. People raved about the dog treats, but we’re still waiting to hear back from the dogs.

After I picked the boys up from school last Friday we went to their house and made signs on recycled cardboard. Nick was too busy playing with his “Fidget spinner” (the latest toy fad) to help, so Ethan and I made the signs and we were both pleased. After the rain subsided I hung one up at the end of the street. Danielle posted something on Craigslist about the sale and my husband Todd posted some pictures on Facebook.

My neighbor Betsy decided to clean out her shed and liquidate some weightlifting equipment and sports stuff that her grown kids no longer use, so we had two sales going. She kindly helped us set up a few tables. The sun came out and all was good.

I got bored waiting for the sale’s 10 a.m. start, so I ran inside and made a meatloaf for sandwiches later. I also roasted some stoned fruit while the oven was hot, as well as some grape tomatoes and small potatoes.

What a blessing to prepare something in five minutes and have the oven do all the work.

At noon we had a picnic outside with Betsy.  About a dozen people came by and bought a few items, several women who yard sale every week from Marblehead remembered me and we had a great time talking about Rosalie’s.  My friend Mary Lou visited and Danielle and the boys,who had apparently forgot about the sale, came by. So much for help from the boys.

Two days of work and just meager income without the little boy magic. But the project got me organized, and I had a pleasant weekend socializing in my driveway.

Yard Sale Picnic of Meatloaf, Roasted Tomatoes and string bean salad

Place 2 slices of broken-up bread in food processor with 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon of chives, scallions or onion, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, 5 tablespoons of grated cheese, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 cup of milk. Pulse until fairly smooth.

Put the mixture in a large bowl. Add to it 1½  pound of ground pork. (You can also use ground beef or veal or a combination of meat.)  Mix well with your fingers. Do not overmix, as it will toughen your outcome.  

Grease a pan like a pie plate with oil and spread the meat mixture out and shape into a circle about 1½ inch thick.

Spray with a little oil and place 10 small potatoes around the circle, then spray with more olive oil, and add a sprinkle of fresh rosemary and sea salt. Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  

Remove from the oven and place the potatoes on another pan and roast until a fork easily pierces them, turning after 10 minutes to brown all over.  

If you like, you can also roast some tomatoes in another pan, treating them the same with oil, salt and rosemary or thyme. The tomatoes will begin to burst after 20 minutes or so, at which time you can take them out of the oven.  

For a salad, I made string beans, which I cooked in boiling water and chilled, then dressed with olive oil, sea salt and fresh lemon juice.

Serve everything on a pretty platter, with some slices of fresh mozzarella. Offer nice rolls, butter and mustard and mayo for sandwiches.            


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