• The Garage Sale Review: The Legend of the Double Garage Sale

    Books for sale at a garage sale.
    Books for sale at a garage sale.

    Editor's note: All photos taken by Gillian Rhodes, Daily Texan Staff.

    Hi, you lovely garage sale connoisseurs!

    This weekend was a big one for The Garage Sale Review. I guess it was just something in the air. I caught Gillian's eye when were getting in her car and we both immediately sensed it — there was an electric energy flowing all around us, guiding us in our quest to garage sale nirvana. Or maybe the feeling was just the comforting embrace of Gillian's garage sale iPhone app, iGarageSale. I'm telling you, if you want to get into garage selling, having a garage sale phone app is the way to go. Seriously, the thing is the bee's knees, the cat's meow, or, if you prefer a Spanish translation of that particular idiom: la mamá de Tarzán, which according to wiktionary.com means the same thing as the bee's knees. I don't know if I buy that or not, though.

    Anyhow, there are a few yard sale apps to choose from so make sure to poke around before you settle. Find the one that's the right fit for you! It's like having a tiny, sleek, downloadable Magellan in your pocket when it comes to navigating garage sales in Austin (or wherever you are). Those random neighborhood streets can be labyrinth-esque, and if you're not properly equipped you might not make it back to the familiar. Ever. Well, at least not for a little bit, which can be annoying.

    OK, let's "git 'r done," shall we?

    View The Garage Sale Review: 7/11 in a larger map

    3613 Winfield Cove

    Our first garage sale was being operated by Toy, who until recently was a teacher. She told us that she was interested in getting rid of some of her junk, which I've realized is like some kind of Newtonian law of garage sale physics. It's like answering "food" when someone asks you "why are you eating that?"

    So, Toy said that she decided to stop teaching in order to bartend full time because she doesn't want life to pass her by — a noble desire if I've ever heard one. As such, she was getting rid of a lot of teaching materials, like twenty copies of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, for example. I was tempted to buy every single one of them, but no, that would mean I'm crazy, so I resisted. Also, there was some inexpensive-ish sound equipment ($30 for a pretty cool record player, $30 for a respectable looking sound receiver) and a couple of funky loveseats for $40 each.


    The next garage sale was a total fail in that the garage seller had no desire to be in a garage sale-focused blog. We didn't resent the seller's resistance, however, as being featured in a weekly column that talks about the junk people sell from their yards isn't for everyone. I bought a pack of Seinfeld playing cards for $2 (way overpriced, but I'm a sucker for Larry David) and we went on our way.

    4810 Avenue H

    The third garage sale we checked out was a real gem, not necessarily because of the quality of the stuff for sale, but because it was a double garage sale — truly legendary! Like a star system where two burning suns orbit around a common system of mass (that's called a binary star, just FYI), the double garage sale consisted of two garage selling parties, James and his wife, Laura, and their next door neighbor Marisa. The garage selling folks had decided to combine because, as James put it, "if it was just us it would be kind of lame," which I have to admit, is a true statement. The items were just standard garage sale fare.

    There were DVDs for one dollar apiece, a hammock that a dog chewed on for $30, a rug, and some other knickknacks and electronics. However, Gillian and I insisted that, like an ugly duckling or a kid that no one likes, every garage sale has some intrinsic worth, so we kept digging around until we found a bouquet of James and Laura's wedding flowers for sale. That's just sweet, I don't care who you are. You might think that a couple selling off their wedding decor is a little sad, but James assured us that they were only doing it because "we're not planning on using them again." Ah, youthful garage sale romance — warm, tender and only $3! What a bargain.

    3800 Avenue H

    Charlie, the spiffy garage seller pictured above, was the host of the fourth garage sale. He told us the story behind the garage sale and the house where it was taking place. The house, which had been built in 1936, had been Charlie's home all his life and he knew a lot about the history of the area. He described the changes that he'd seen in the city and even in 48th Street, which runs in front of the house, and has become a pretty heavily-trafficked road.

    Charlie said that a lot of the items in the garage sale had belonged to his brother, who had recently moved to a nursing home. There were lots of books and clothes ("he was a pretty large fella', all the pants are 42 waist, the shirts are extra large") and even some artwork that Charlie's daughter had painted like the painting of Bevo that he's holding up there. We chatted with Charlie a bit more and then went on our way.

    3501 Greenway Street

    Our final stop of the day was described as a "designer garage sale" by the garage seller, because she "wanted people to know that it wasn't a lot of crap." She said she was having the garage sale because she's putting her house (designed by Lake Flato, the architects responsible for Hotel San Jose on South Congress) on the market soon and wanted to clear some stuff out.

    Anyway, Julie was right, there wasn't a lot of crap at this garage sale. There were some really nice couches and fancy stereo equipment — a lot of it already gone — but, being poor and cheap, the high-end items weren't really what stood out to Gillian and I. We were immediately drawn to the robot that Julie had for sale. She told us that it dances and picks stuff up and that she "bought it when it came out, but now she's done with it." Love 'em and leave 'em when it comes to robots, that's what I always say. Also, notice the oversized light bulb to Julie's left there. That, my friends, is a big light bulb lamp. "It's a light bulb and it's a lamp," Julie said. Accurately stated. And guess what? She bought it at a yard sale! Whenever I see a killer deal a little siren inside my head starts going off and when Julie told me the light bulb lamp cost $5 my brain nearly exploded. I bought it and now it's in my room, illuminating my things like only a big light bulb can.

    Welp, that's all, you guys. Join Gillian and I next week for more garage sale action or you'll be sorry. Just kidding, it's OK if you don't, but you really should. Really.

  • Apron Optional: A penné for your thoughts

    Apron Optional cooks up an adaptation of The Pioneer Woman’s Penné with Shrimp & Tomato Cream Sauce. This version adds a bit more color and zest with a cup of peas and one large lemon.
    Apron Optional cooks up an adaptation of The Pioneer Woman’s Penné with Shrimp & Tomato Cream Sauce. This version adds a bit more color and zest with a cup of peas and one large lemon.

    Hey everyone, its Rachel here again for another round in the kitchen!

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like we’ve been making a lot of sweet stuff around here. Not that I don’t love baking them — and certainly not that my friends don’t like eating them — but I’ve actually always been more of a salty food person myself.

    Therefore, I thought this week we would make something easy that you could have before your cookies. What the hell, eat them after your cookies! You’re in college now, these are the types of crazy experiences you will look back on years from now when you think of what a wild child you were. In any case, we will be making penne pasta with tomato cream sauce and shrimp.

    Before I fill you in on why I chose this dish, here are two quick tutorials that may help you out in your kitchen endeavors:

    To mince garlic, first peel two cloves (segments) off of the pod. Laying them on their sides on a cutting board, cut off both tips with a large chef’s knife. Firmly holding your knife, rest the flat side of the blade on top of the garlic clove. Carefully pound the knife down to crush the garlic (the motion is similar to something you might see in a “cool” guy handshake). Peel off the skin and discard it. Now, thinly slice the garlic, being careful to avoid your fingers. Do the same in the other direction and you are done!

    To chiffonade basil, neatly stack several basil leaves (washed) on a cutting board. Then, tightly roll the stack of leaves up lengthwise. Slice the roll into thin strips, opposite lengthwise. That’s all there is to it — the French name is fancier than the skill.

    If you know me now, this may come as quite a shock, but when I was younger I really didn’t care that much for pasta. I would eat it, but I just didn’t ever really want it (excluding macaroni and cheese, naturally). Then, when I was 16 I went to Italy with my family for a summer vacation.

    I know I’m not the first, second or millionth person to go to Italy and fall in love with Italian food, but I am perfectly fine counting myself among the masses. Never before in my life did I actually crave pasta, and then suddenly I was obsessed, as if every meal was my last supper before the Atkins diet.

    Among the many things that I ate (after just a week, I’m legitimately surprised I still fit on the plane, much less into my pants), a spaghetti dish with tomato cream sauce still sticks out in my mind. Simple and rich, it was the first time I had ever seen anything other than a traditional red sauce. The bright, reddish orange color was a departure from any previous sauce I had experience in the realm of pasta. To this day, I seek it out at restaurants.

    I found the recipe for this particular dish on one of my longtime favorite food blogs, The Pioneer Woman — although I believe this the recipe was also included in author Ree Drummond’s cookbook, published in 2009.

    I decided to add fresh peas to mine because they are in season and I love them. Honestly, if you aren’t paying attention when dinner is cooking, I will try to add them to just about anything I can justify. I think they go well with this dish in particular (you can use the frozen variety as well) — but I won’t be hurt if you skip them.

    Lastly, I like to keep a lemon wedge nearby sometimes when I’m eating particularly rich pasta. The acidity cuts some of the heaviness out of the dish and adds a nice balance.

    I hope you guys enjoy! The dish itself isn’t too terribly difficult to make, but it looks pretty and tastes fantastic, and that’s pretty much all I could ever dream for in pasta.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat myself into a carbo-coma. See you next week!

  • Weekend Recs: American Spirit, American Icon, Keys, Skanky Chillwave

    Local folk singer-songwriter Gabriel Strycharz of The American Spirit is playing a free, short set at the Mohawk on Thursday.

    WHAT: HAPPY HOUR: The American Spirit
    WHEN: Thursday, July 7 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
    WHERE: The Mohawk (indoors)
    ADMISSION: No Cover, 21+

    Spider House and Toy Joy are hosting their third annual art sale Sunday. The sale will feature more than 20 vintage clothing vendors, including Pop Noir, Dog and Pony Show, I Luv Video, Pink Fox Vintage and Meow Mod.

    WHAT: American Icon Austin Presents: Spider House 29th Street Yard Sale
    WHEN: Sunday, July 10 from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    WHERE: Spider House

    Local soul pop band Suite 709 is finally releasing its latest album, KEYS, Saturday at Stubb’s. All guests will receive a copy of KEYS, and the concert will also feature fellow local bands, The Canvas Waiting, The Vettes and BK & Mr.E.

    WHAT: SUITE 709 Album Release Party
    WHEN: Saturday, June 9 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
    WHERE: Stubb’s, 801 Red River Street
    ADMISSION: $5 with RSVP/“Like” on bit.ly/jgpPQP, $7 without RSVP


    The Skank family is hosting a chillwave showcase of local electronic artists, featuring Galapagos, Selva Oscura, Lay Bac, Party Girl and Corduroi. There will also be live paintings done by visual artists and screen printing.

    WHAT: SKANKY SUMMER: Chillwave Showcase
    WHEN: Sunday, July 10 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
    WHERE: The Parish
    ADMISSION: $5 for 21+, $7 for under 21

  • Art in Translation: Art in a Nutshell

    Ismael Mauricio Cavazos’ carving of Original Old Man in the Peanut. Photo courtesy of Isamel Mauricio Cavazos.
    Ismael Mauricio Cavazos’ carving of Original Old Man in the Peanut. Photo courtesy of Isamel Mauricio Cavazos.

    It’s not often that art truly baffles me. Impresses, yes — baffles, no. Well, today I am baffled.

    I went to the South First Street novelty museum, Art in a Nutshell. Owned and operated by Ismael Mauricio Cavazos, it features the world’s only peanut carvings. Yes, you read correctly. The man carves peanuts.

    It gets a little deeper, I assure you — The Daily Texan even did a multimedia piece on Cavazos’ work last year. But I wanted to make that clear and allow the George Washington Carver jokes to begin. In fact, he uses the man behind the peanut butter as inspiration as he sets out to carve 300 different designs out of the small snack.

    The carvings are based around a concept UT graduate Cavazos, 38, refers to as Extractionism, the art of creating and inventing new images based upon replicas of images seen all around us. Essentially, it means that you can find inadvertent images in everything from a cliff bar wrapper (there is a face in the cliff) to say, a peanut, and create a new context by extracting that image.

    Inside every peanut, there is the germ of a seed, which looks like, as Cavazos points out, a bearded old man with a hood over his eyes. This inspired his original peanut carving of a bearded sage back in 2004. Since then, he has envisioned that same seed germ to be 29 other images, including a bat and a jellyfish.

    The idea behind these peanut carvings is that micro mirrors macro in the sense that smaller elements of nature and produced images have a tendency — for whatever reason — to resemble that of actual, whole objects and creatures. Cavazos said the meaning of the art is finding pre-existing images and highlighting them to create new meaning and context. This genre of art is often found in the art world, yet artists don’t want to categorize it that way. Instead, they generally call whatever medium they’ve used as a new art form and go on their merry way.

    I’m always a little weary of buying into anything that sounds a little too existential, skeptical anything nearly hokey, but after being shown a Flaming-Hot Cheeto Puff in the shape of a penis (for 18+ year old eyes only), I’m starting to think that maybe Cavazos is on to something. Perhaps sometimes the cigar isn’t always just a cigar — although we can get to Freud another day.

    I like the idea that we create things and find things in nature that are unconsciously made out of smaller versions of images in everyday life. For the spiritual folk, it can make you feel a little like everything is intertwined, as if nature is somehow fused to our creative vision in such a way that we don’t even realize what we’re doing.

    Even Leonardo da Vinci said that although it sounded nuts (pun intended), he found inspiration and images in mold growing on walls.

    Regardless of any philosophical enlightenment I may take away from this experience, I’ll never look at a peanut the same. Peanut butter on the other hand ...

    Until next time!