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The Damsel has a lovely bramble of a marjoram plant at her Cottage by the Mountains.



It’s  . . . well . . . large.

Marjoram is one of the Damsel’s favorite herbs, so she wanted to go Old School and dry some for the dead of winter–when the marjoram bush will be um, dead. (Until spring, that is)

So she took a pair of scissors and snipped lots and lots of stems.


Way more than this. Way.

The Damsel laid them out on paper towels (stacked in lots of layers) and thought they’d dry really quickly since the stems are woody and the leaves aren’t at all “juicy.” After a couple of days, she tried to strip the leaves from the stems. Not dry enough.

It’s a well-known fact that the Damsel HATES WAITING. So she was pretty happy to learn that if she microwaved each paper towel with marjoram stems for only one minute, the herbs were swiftly dry enough to strip right off the stems. That’s right. Just microwave for one minute (the paper towel isn’t even necessary) and the herbs are bone dry.

She tried this with snipped chives, too, which are “juicier,” but they were also quite dry in only one minute. Sometimes she let them go a few more seconds to be sure, so that the herbs wouldn’t mold in the jar.

Good news: nearly any herb can be dried this way.

The Damsel did get a little depressed, though. Lots of microwave sessions later, she ended up with:


This was all she got. This little jar would nestle easily in the palm of her hand, so there are maybe 4 tablespoons here. It seemed like there would be so much more when she began. Her dreams of boatloads of dried marjoram were cruelly crushed.

No wonder herbs can be expensive! They shrink a lot.

And that’s why you can use fewer dried herbs than fresh in a recipe. The rule of thumb is 3 to 1. For example, if the recipe calls for 3 teaspoons of fresh marjoram, you only need 1 teaspoon of the dried version.

Also, the Damsel would like you to know that dried herbs lose their flavor over time. Try to use them within a year or two.

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store this, not that

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The Old School has been on hiatus for a long time, but the Damsel would like to poke her head in and say she misses her students. She hopes you are all doing well.

Things are going well at the Cottage by the Mountains too. Bulbs are coming up. Chickens are clucking. Life is good.

She recently came across a book she’d like you to know about. Store This, Not That, by Crystal Godfrey and Debbie Kent. The Damsel has seen many a food storage book in her day, and this one is a great addition to the pile.

It’s colorful, well organized, and best of all, makes the goal of attaining a food storage seem doable. The Damsel especially appreciates that it follows her own philosophy for food storage: put in some life-saving basics, such as wheat, sugar, oil, salt, and beans to form a base, and then build from there with the non-perishables you already eat and enjoy.

It’s basic but that’s by design. It’s great for people setting up storage for the first time or as a refresher on how to update what you have.


Store-This-Not-That_9781462118045-1The Damsel received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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Welcome to our guest author (substitute teacher) Kirsten Metcalf from the Mormon Channel.

Remember when your parents gave you a piggy bank as a small child? It sat on your dresser, and you would add in all the coins you could find until your little piggy was full and you could finally buy that toy you’d been saving up for.

As an adult, that small piggy bank is probably long gone by now, but saving money should still be something you’re doing! Your savings are your financial safety net; this money helps you remain financially stable, reach goals, pay for family vacations, have peace of mind when unexpected costs come up, and ensure that one day you can retire without money worries.

We all know we should be saving money, but not all of us do. If you find that you struggle to save, know you’re not alone. But regularly saving money is a financial habit you should get into. Your parents and grandparents were probably good savers. If they were, they probably thoroughly enjoyed (or are currently enjoying) their golden years, and if they didn’t, well then learn from that so you can enjoy life more carefree now and during your golden years!

So, where do you start? How can you more easily get into the good financial habit of saving your money?

Savings Jar or New School Piggy Bank


Flickr — Holger

Perhaps your dad keeps an old mason jar on his nightstand and empties the change out of his pockets into the jar every night when he gets home. Take my word for it — change adds up more quickly than you’d think. Find a jar and place it where you will see it every day so you’re reminded to empty your pockets every night. To get even more eager to fill that jar up, decide what that money is going towards, whether that’s a family vacation or paying off credit card debt. Whatever you decide, having a good reason to save makes you more likely to actually save your money.

You can even go back to your younger days with a piggy bank, except nowadays there are more adult piggy banks. Several available not only look nice, they even have more than one slot so you can put money towards savings, spending, and investing.

52-Week Money Challenge

It’s not the beginning of the year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start this challenge today or anytime during the year. You probably already have a savings account at your bank, but instead of having one you rarely put money into, challenge yourself to add money weekly. There are two ways to achieve this challenge:

Add $1 into your savings account the first week, and then each week after you add one dollar more, i.e. $2 for week 2, $3 for week 3, etc., working your way up to $52 by week 52.
Add $52 the first week, and then work backwards, subtracting one dollar each week, i.e. $51 for week 2, $50 for week 3, etc., until you get down to $1 on week 52.

Some people have found they were more enthusiastic at the beginning of the challenge so starting at $52 and working in reverse was best. But either way works, and whichever way you choose, you’ll have saved $1,378 by the end! And don’t forget interest you garner throughout the course of the year, which adds a few more dollars to that total.

So whether it’s an old fashioned or old fashioned way with a modern twist, pick a money-saving method and stick with it. Don’t just think about saving money — start doing it today!

Learn more about savings and self-reliance by visiting Mormon Channel.



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how to make peonies last

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The Damsel loves peonies ever so much.


They are the very example of an old fashioned flower, which makes them even more dear to the Damsel. The old fashioned varieties smell heavenly (the ones hybridized for fancy colors less so) and have no thorns. Roses struggle to compete in the Damsel’s heart.

While their short season lasts, she revels in them. She kind of wants to say they are her very favorite, but she wouldn’t want the lilacs to hear that.


Two or three glorious weeks, and then they are gone. If only there was a way to keep them around a little longer! Actually, there is…or at least spread them out a bit. The Damsel will show you how to preserve buds for up to two months, to enjoy long after the usual blooming period of the peony bush.



Look for buds like this…fully formed but not opened. A little soft to the touch. With or without ladybug. The hard part is telling yourself that you can’t have this peony now. You’ll have to wait until later. But it will be worth the wait.


Wrap the ends in plastic wrap. Don’t fuss, just enclose the ends. Lay on a tray and put somewhere cold, like a refrigerator, so that they lie horizontally. They can stay there for up to two months, and when you’re ready for a new peony infusion, take them out, snip off a bit of the stem, and place in a vase of water. The peony will bloom in 8-24 hours.


The longer there are peonies in the Damsel’s life, the happier she is.

Thanks to this pretty blog for the info:  My Life and Kids

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You may have seen this method on the nets already. But, now it’s all new and different because now–it’s Old School approved. The Damsel tested this method and it’s all true. All of it.

There is no easier way to cook a single ear of corn. PERIOD.

Take an UNSHUCKED ear of corn in your hand. Don’t wash it, don’t pull off the outer husks, nothin’. Put it straight into your microwave. Cook at full power for 4 minutes.

Using hotpads if necessary, put the cooked cob on a cutting board.


Position a sharp knife on the stem end of the cob (the opposite of the silk tuft) about where the “shoulder” of the cob is. You can feel through the husks where the cob curves out to its main diameter. Cut all the way through the layers of husk at this point. The Damsel found herself needing to dig in with the pointy end to get things started, but if your knife is plenty sharp, you might be able to easily make the cut.


It will look something like this after the cut. You’ll lose a little of the corn around the “shoulder” of the ear but it’s all going to be okay. If you make the cut too close to the stem end, the magic won’t happen.


Grasp the corn near the silk tassle. Some folks have described “shaking out” the ear of corn. The Damsel found it necessary to give it a squeeze, nudging the corn from the husks. It’s no longer connected to the husks, and will simply slip out.

Here’s the amazing part: NO SILK. That’s the claim on the nets, and the Damsel is happy to report that it is quite true. The hot, tender corn slips out completely silk free and ready to be rolled/smeared in butter. Then you know what to do.

The Damsel tried this a few times, and if silk remained on the ear after this process, it was due to user error. She cut too close to the stem end a couple of times, and the result was still good but not as miraculous.

If you are doing a huge potful of corn, you might find yourself still shucking the old fashioned way (see THIS post) if microwaving is going to take too long and/or not enough corn can be cooked at the same time when microwaving. But if you count the amount of time you normally spend shucking and picking at the pesky silk, you might decide that microwaving a few ears at a time isn’t a bad idea.

Your mileage may vary.





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revive your mascara

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The Damsel loves a new tube of mascara. There’s something so nice about the way it goes on, smooth and–well, black.  It gives the Damsel a hopeful feeling that maybe even she can put on a decent coat of mascara, despite her fashion handicaps.

Everything goes along well for a while–a month, perhaps–and then things begin to get sticky, clumpy, globby. You know how they say you should replace your mascara every three months? The Damsel wants to do the right thing, but is it a crime to go four months?

Oh yeah, mascara is old school. The Egyptians were said to use it back in 4000 BC. Some say the stuff was made of soot mixed with crocodile dung. Neat!

It’s super old school to get the most out of your stuff, and while the Damsel isn’t advocating putting your eyes at risk by extending a tube of mascara way past its time, here’s a trick to make it behave better and longer.

When you begin your getting-ready transformation, fill a cup or glass with the hottest water that will come out of your tap. Put your mascara tube in the glass and continue onward with hair, face, etc. Ten or more minutes later, you end off with your now warm and obedient mascara.

The warmth from the water softens the mascara, making it nice again–almost like new. This method not guaranteed to work with crocodile dung, however.

It’s nice to know about a trick that is so easy and free–and in the Damsel’s opinion, very effective.

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wrap me in an apron

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I don’t think our kids know what an apron is. The principle use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few. It was also because it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and aprons used less material. But along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.

It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids..

And when the weather was cold, Grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.

Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.

In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that ‘old-time apron’ that served so many purposes.

Send this to those who would know (and love) the story about Grandma’s aprons.


Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.

They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.

I don’t think I ever caught anything from an apron – but love…



p.s. The Damsel has looked long and hard for sources for these beautiful thoughts, and the perfect picture to match. She welcomes the chance to add attributions.

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broken toys–fix?

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Today the Damsel welcomes guest poster Sarah Brooks.

How to Make Good Use of Broken Toys

The definition and perception of what makes a good toy has changed over the years. While we might agree that toys are meant to be played with, there are still countless ways to interpret what makes a toy, a toy. Is a video game a toy? It serves the same function as a Matchbox car does, but with an assist from technology. How about a doll? Girls and boys play with them, but they also sometimes sit on shelves, not meant to be played with, at all. Is a game a toy? The answer to all is “Yes.”

If playing with something is what makes it a toy, there are bound to be toy casualties along the way. Games with missing pieces, action figures with severed limbs, and vehicles missing wheels each find their way on to the landscape of broken toys; prompting parents to seek creative ways to renew them.

“Waste not, want not” resonates with people of past generations, uninspired by the throw-away culture that dominates the modern toy market. Frugality, fun and green consciousness that stimulates creative re-use moves crafty folks to breathe new life into broken-down items.What are some imaginative ways to make use of broken toys?


Image by Distant Hill Gardens via Flickr

Fix It

Toys aren’t always made to last, so fixing broken items isn’t always worth the time and effort. On the other hand, some toys are made with repairs in mind; especially vintage models which lend themselves to servicing. If you are attached to a broken toy, there is no harm in exploring repair options before giving up on keeping it functioning. In the case of desirable or collectible toys, you may actually add to a toy’s value by bringing it up to snuff.

Craft Projects

Toys, including board games and others with small parts, lend themselves to craft projects of various types. With a hot glue gun and some colorful spray paint, the sky is the limit for repurposing broken toys.

Mosaic projects are popular craft efforts aimed at broken toy pieces. Flat and relief mosaics capture appealing visual sensations, but they also reference the pop culture of the pieces used to make them. Retiring an old Monopoly game to the craft bin, for example, yields numerous fun ways to share the campy game’s imagery, for artistic affect.

Holiday cards or Christmas Tree ornaments utilize broken toys, inspiring home-made seasonal crafts. Not only are the items you make worthy of giving as gifts, but the time spent making them with family members furnishes fond holiday memories. Even wreaths are easily crafted using themes provided by whatever toy parts are at-hand.

Jewelry Making

Colorful brooches and other pieces of jewelry are whimsically inspired by broken toys. Attaching pins or earring hangers to small toy pieces creates wearable conversation pieces, which conjure memories of playing with the toys you now wear as accessories.


Image by brizzle born and bred via Flickr

Household Items

Repurposing toy parts within your home serves functional needs; keeping broken toys out of the landfill at the same time. Common everyday household items, like mirrors, for example, are easily adorned with decorative toy accents. Creating a mirror frame of little toy soldiers makes a great wall piece for a little boy’s bedroom, while a Barbie themed mirror as at home with young ladies. Or use Barbie’s broken legs to make a tongue-in-cheek coat hook for the back of daughter’s door.

There are virtually no limitations repurposing broken toys into fun and functional items. Not only is it relaxing and rewarding, but it brings together family members who share the experience.

Author Bio:

This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from Freepeoplesearch.org. She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23 @ gmail.com.

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honey vs. sugar

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A few days ago, the Damsel talked to a friend who has a spot of hypoglycemia. If she eats sweet things on an empty stomach, she feels dizzy and lightheaded. So she switched to using honey rather than white sugar in her morning shake. Things didn’t work out for her the way she’d hoped.

This brings up the question: how does honey differ from sugar on a nutritional level?

DCF 1.0

One could argue that since honey is less processed than sugar, it’s better for you. But once a spoonful of honey hits your system and is metabolized, there’s not much difference nutritionally. They have equal ratings on the glycemic index, which measures the sugar hit on your bloodstream. The amount of vitamins or protein or minerals in honey is so small it’s not worth talking about.

What about calories? There are 46 calories in a tablespoon of sugar, and 64 in a tablespoon of honey. Since honey is a little sweeter than sugar, spoonful to spoonful, that makes the calories pretty much the same too. (When substituting, you can usually use about 1/3 less honey than sugar in a recipe. If you have a fussy recipe, you may need to also reduce the liquid a smidgeon to compensate for the moisture of honey.)

Then there’s cost. Sugar’s cheaper, no doubt about it. Prices vary widely for both items. You can save a little by buying in bulk, but some folks can’t face the thought of a 5 gallon bucket of solidified honey. (Just so you know…solidified or crystallized honey is still fine to eat, and can be restored to its delicious pourable/spreadable state by heating it. The Damsel has even successfully melted honey packed in a plastic gallon container by putting it in the oven on the lowest setting, although it frightened her.)

The reasons for using honey instead of sugar boils down to pretty much just one thing: taste. Honey has its own unique flavor that can’t be duplicated by white sugar in some recipes. But once it’s past your tongue, your body sees little difference.

There is one thing that should be mentioned…some folk who have managed to find/eat local honey…honey made by bees that buzz in their own vicinity…have noticed an improvement in seasonal allergies. You might want to give that a try if you are one of the allergic.

For help on how to measure the pesky sticky stuff, see this post:

Measuring Honey

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shelf life of food

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Here’s a handy chart showing the shelf life for many common foods. Do any of these surprise you?
As you may know, expiration dates are often wildly inconsistent with reality. You may be pitching food that’s perfectly good.
Comments below:

The Shelf Life of Food

The Damsel is no expert on this topic, but she does think one item on this infographic is quite wrong . . . the one about eggs. A few hours on the counter and they are bad? No. Many countries don’t even refrigerate eggs in the store. They are sold at room temperature. Yes, refrigerate your eggs when you bring them home, but it’s perhaps an example of a food where folks have become overly cautious. No one wants salmonella, but eggs sit in the nest for a “while” before being picked up, yes?

And yes, they can be frozen. See this post: How to freeze eggs

And this: Testing eggs for freshness

There you go.


Infographic by LindsaySnowOsborn.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.
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