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giveaway!

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Yay!

Something wonderful happened at the Cottage by the Mountains.

You may know that the Damsel also writes fiction. Her first novel was published last year, and she’s been working on a sequel for like, forever. But here’s news: the sequel, tentatively entitled Glimmer of Light, has been accepted for publication. A spring release is planned.

The Damsel has been dancing ever since she heard! So happy…and in celebration, she’s holding a giveaway of the first novel, Sudden Darkness. You can read a little about the book here, on Amazon. Click!

Entering is simple. Just comment. Tell us your favorite old-school skill or trick, whether one you read here or one of your own. That’s all you must do.

The giveaway will run until Oct. 1. U.S. residents only, please. If you subscribe by email, please click through to the website to leave a comment. Thank you!

Sudden Darkness

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If you’ve never had the luxury of sleeping on a ironed and lightly starched pillowcase, please proceed to the ironing board.

Maybe it’s not for every day, but this is one of life’s little pleasures that Grandma knew all about–and we’ve forgotten. Try it once, and see if you don’t agree.

“But I don’t iron,” you may say. “I’d rather die.” The Damsel understands. She’s said these words before.

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It may sound painful but ironing a pillowcase is a quick job indeed. The Damsel estimates your survival percentages to be quite high.

But what about that starch thing? Who has spray starch around anymore, and why would a person spend their sheckels on such?

Let the Damsel put your mind at ease. You can make your own spray starch in, like, 30 seconds, out of stuff you probably already have. Here is the list of necessary ingredients:

  • spray bottle
  • cornstarch
  • water (you can also add a couple of drops of essential oil for a nice scent)

Yes. It’s just as you suspected. Starch = cornstarch, at least for this purpose.

Mix a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch in two cups of cold water until dissolved. Pour into a spray bottle. Shaking the spray bottle just before, and using the finest mist setting the bottle has, spray the fabric lightly and iron. This works beautifully but there are two things to be aware of. First, the mixture will get yucky in a few days, so make just enough to get you by. (hence the small spray bottle in the photo) Second, this works great for white fabrics but may cause white specks on colored fabric. You can eliminate this by heating the cornstarch/water solution to a boil and then cool. Now the cornstarch is in a more highly dissolved state and shouldn’t cause problems with colored fabric.

If you have vodka in the house **cough** use that in place of the water for a long-lasting mixture.

Quilters and sewers sometimes wash and then starch/iron fabric before cutting to give it extra “hand” that makes it a bit easier to work with.

Just as with purchased spray starch, you may notice flaking. Starching/ironing on the wrong side of the fabric is one solution.

embroidery

The lost art of hand-embroidered pillowcases is another thing altogether.

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soft boiled eggs, perfect

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Have you enjoyed the deliciousness of soft boiled eggs lately? The Damsel fears cooking them is becoming a lost art, and that’s what the Old School is all about.

Soft but firm whites. Yolks that are thick yet runny. Nothing snotty or goobery. Perfect.

People used to (anyone still? yes? yes?) eat them in egg cups that looked like this:

EGGCUP

The eater would cut off the top with a knife and then scoop out the deliciousness, bite by bite. So old-fashioned, so yummy.

The Damsel adores them, although not in the precious little cups. She loves them scooped out onto a piece of sprouted-wheat toast with plenty of salt and pepper. HEAVEN.

But some people fear the soft boiled egg, thinking they’re too fussy or difficult. Let the Damsel put you instantly at ease. If you follow her easy instructions your soft boiled eggs will be PERFECT EVERY TIME.

Put an inch of water in a sauce pan and heat to a boil. You will feel strange doing this, but press forward. You are going to steam the eggs instead of submerge them. You will like doing it this way for several reasons, and the first lovely reason is: that inch of water will come to a boil more quickly than a full pot. Less waiting=good.

Carefully set the eggs into the inch of boiling water. This will also seem strange–the eggs sitting there with only a bit of water under and around them. Have faith.

Cover and set the timer for six minutes. You can turn the heat down a little if you like, but the water should remain boiling.

Reason #2 for steaming vs. boiling: you can do several eggs in the same pan, or just one, or whatever your egg desires are. It’s still six minutes. With the submerge method, the number of eggs would mess with the temperature of the water and then you’d wonder, do I cook it longer? or ? Not so here. You can have confidence that your eggs will not let you down.

When the six minutes is up, run a little cold water over the egg until you it’s cool enough to pick up with your fingers and do whichever type of surgery on it you desire–egg cup style, over toast, whatever. The egg inside will stay warm.

The Damsel cuts the eggshell in half with a butter knife, in the general vicinity of her toast, and then scoops all the yum out onto it. Use firm but delicate pressure to cut through the shell. You’ll get the hang of it right away.

Mmmm!

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measuring honey

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Honey. An old-fashioned and yummy ingredient if there ever was one.

If you have to measure honey for a recipe, do you draw a deep sigh? It’s going to be messy. Sticky. Gloppy. And then it’s going to stick to the measuring cup, and  the full measure of honey won’t get into the recipe. If there are kids in the house who have used the honey jar, just touching it takes courage. Opening it sometimes requires a superhero, with the lid all stuck tight.

It’s enough to make you want to bag the whole thing and take a lie-down.

Here are the Damsel’s tips for less stress when measuring honey:

  • If the recipe also uses oil, measure it first, then the honey in the same measuring cup. The oil will help the honey slide right out.
  • Or, spray the measuring cup with cooking spray for the same general result. (Use these methods for measuring syrup, too.)
  • Commit to yourself that you will wipe down the honey jar Every Single Time you use it. The Damsel buys honey in ridiculously large containers and then transfers some into a quart jar to keep in the kitchen cupboard, and she makes herself wipe off the jar rings and rinse the cap with hot water Every Single Time. This way she actually manages to open the jar all by herself most days, although she still welcomes superheros into her kitchen.

Also, the Damsel often nukes the quart jar for several seconds to make the honey pour into the measuring cup more readily. She hates waiting. (Take the metal cap off first)

 

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emergency_preparedness1

A few days ago, the Damsel posted an interesting infographic on preparedness. (See THIS post) Pretty amazing, and for most people, a bit overwhelming. The Damsel received this thoughtful reply and wanted to pass it along to you. (with permission)

“This friend of the Damsel found this plan fascinating and exhaustING!  and feels that the sanest form of preparedness is what my friends and I call “provident living.”  This means that we prepare thoughtfully for future emergencies without excessive focus on fearful events.  If we know how do to the necessities “old school” style, and live closer to the earth in practical ways, storing what we eat and eating what we store, we will be better able to cope with various disruptions in the world as we now know it.
This matrix has a lot of elements of fear and extreme changes, and it is both entertaining and anxiety-making to contemplate. But as for me, I cannot live happily if I am always imagining the scary future.  I have to live mostly with the demands of today. Not to be overly pious, but honestly, are not the evils of any given day sufficient thereunto? (Matt 6:34) I subscribe to the philosophy, “if you are prepared you shall not fear.”
This prepper plan would take the dedication of an absorbing hobby–using a lot of time and a lot of money.  But I have printed it and will put it in my binder for a time when I have a little extra of both, because it is so very complete.
Love your writing.

Carolyn McDonald”

Thank you, Carolyn. The Damsel appreciates your point of view and common sense.

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At the Cottage by the Mountains, it’s finally spring, and the garden planting has commenced: peas, beans, beets, spinach, chard, and onions are currently underway. Various squash and pumpkin starts are next up to move outdoors, and last fall’s garlic planting is looking great. Here we go!

Garden experts say that plants grow best in a neutral pH environment…not too acidy, not to alkaline. 6 or 7 on the pH scale is good. So now that many of us are getting ready to sow our gardens, how can we find out about the soil’s acidity?

pH test kits are readily available at home and garden stores, but here’s a simple and sorta free way to test your soil’s pH level, with stuff you probably have in your cupboard.

pH

Go out to your garden and scoop some soil into a cup or jar. Add a half cup of vinegar. If the soil bubbles, it’s alkaline. In a separate container, scoop a fresh sample, and add 1/2 cup baking soda mixed in 1/2 cup water. Fizzing here says your soil is acidy.

To bring your garden soil into the neutral range, you will need to add to or “amend” your soil, as they say in Gardenland. Amend your soil with wood ash or lime, if it’s acidic. Amend your soil with sulfur or pine needles, if it’s alkaline. There are probably other amendments your local garden store would recommend as well.

The Damsel wishes you good luck with Garden 2013.

EDIT: please see the comments for a very informative link on adding pine needles to your soil or compost pile.

 

 

 

 

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be prepared

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The Damsel found this prepping matrix exhaustive and fascinating. What do you think?

A link to a .pdf version is below the image.

prepping matrix ver 1

prepping matrix ver 1prepping matrix ver 1

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From time to time, the Damsel receives requests to guest post at the Old School. Substitute teaching, so to speak. She must admit that most of the requests don’t fit in with the curriculum and she sadly has to take a pass.

However, this one caught her eye. Could it be because the photo features a MAN cleaning?

How to Speed Clean the Kitchen
The kitchen is the room in the home that is cleaned the most frequently, so that thorough cleaning, which is carried out from time to time, is easier. With the aid of organisation and planning, the whole kitchen can be cleaned in a really short span of time. Of course, even when the daily cleaning of the kitchen is carried out, people need the usual cleaning tools and substances. They should have enough cloths, sponges, cleaners, etc. If there are not enough tools or cleaning products at home, the necessary ones should be bought before the speed cleaning starts.

 

  1. First the sink should be filled with hot water, and soap should be added. If there is a double sink with a garbage disposal, the disposal free side should be used. The disposal side will be useful when it is necessary to scrape leftovers and send them down the drain. The scraping off of the dishes into the disposal is the next step. The dishes that need to be soaked in order to be washed well should be inserted into the dishwasher. The most heavily soiled dishes should be left at the bottom of the dishwasher. The large ones, like bowls or pans, should be filled with soapy water and left to soak.
  2. While the dishes are soaking, it is time to clear the garbage from the floor, collect unnecessary matter from the cupboards or from any place in the kitchen.
    There can be items in the kitchen that do not belong there, having been left by the family members while in a hurry. These items should be gathered in one place, and preferably put into some container, for example a basket, to be taken out in order to take the items to the places where they belong. Here is when more family members can join to help make cleaning the kitchen shorter.
  3. Then the dishwasher can be loaded, or washing the dishes by hand can be done. The washing by hand option is another stage of cleaning the kitchen when more family members can join to speed up the washing and putting in place of dishes, cutlery, etc.
  4. The next stage of the fast cleaning of the kitchen is the washing of the appliances, the sink, and the worktop.
  5. After the washing and the wiping, it is time to rinse the cloths and the sponges. Mopping or vacuuming should round off the speed cleaning process.
  6. The garbage collected in the course of the cleaning can be taken out and disposed of.

The amount of time spent on speed cleaning the kitchen depends on the number of householders. With larger families, the speed cleaning undertaking will take longer. On the other hand, if speed cleaning is done by the whole family, e.g. after dinner, it can be really fast and hassle free. Speed cleaning is needed on a daily basis, as a small cleaning project which saves a lot of time in the long run, and also when some unexpected guests phone to inform they are coming any moment. Speed cleaning can turn into a fun family game if you involve some of the family members who can even get some small reward for the work being done.
Bio: Cindy Davis is writer and freelancer. She has great passion for cleaning, as it is of great importance of her family’s health to always keep their home clean and sanitized. Therefore her present article is focused around this topic.

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Bright lights, big lettuce.

The Damsel heard you could grow lettuce indoors under florescent lights and decided then and there she wanted to try it, because the Cottage By The Mountains was buried in snow, and spring seemed oh so far away. She yearned for soil, seeds, and sprouts.

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Jan. 26: She fetched a plastic tray that bedding plants came in last year and filled it full of potting soil. After wetting the soil well, she made a little furrow with her finger. Then she sprinkled two kinds of lettuce seed in the furrows. She figured she was using way too much seed, but the seed looked so…well, like little broken pieces of stems/leaves/plant matter…not uniform at all. She couldn’t feel sure what was seed and what wasn’t. She decided she’d plant thick and then thin the plants later. Then she covered the furrows and patted it sweetly.

The husband found a spot beside a garage window and rigged a florescent light directly overhead.

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Ten days later she saw this and felt happy inside. Green growing things!

A lot more lettuce seed sprouted than the Damsel guessed. Obviously they would never grow well this close together, so when the plants got to be a few inches tall, she thinned them even though it broke her heart to pull out the little darlings.

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March 8. Yes, there are two types of lettuce: a red leaf variety and a green romaine.

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This photo shows the placement of the florescent lights…the closer, the better. We also rotate the tray so both sides get the benefit of the sun through the window, but people have successfully grown lettuce indoors where there are no windows at all. So there you go.

The Damsel has eaten a bit of this lettuce already–she snipped it off with a pair of sharp scissors instead of pulling it out because IT WILL GROW BACK. Is that not the best thing ever?

Next year the Damsel plans to have lettuce grown all through the winter, now that she knows how easy and delicious it is.

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how to freeze eggs

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We freeze all sorts of things to keep them for later. Why don’t people know that we can freeze eggs too?

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(eggs courtesy of the Damsel’s Freerange Flightless Female Flock.)

It’s okay. You can do it. It’s not illegal. The knowledge of this secret can now sweep the earth.

Now, calmly realize you aren’t going to be able to thaw a frozen egg and then cook it sunny side up. But you can use them quite happily in baked things, and even scrambled eggs.

Most professional egg-freezers say to do it like this: Crack the eggs into a bowl, and lightly mix them. Break up the yolks and so on, but don’t beat a lot of air into the eggs.

The Damsel wonders why, but although many people share the air warning, no one seems to know the reason.

Then pour the eggs into an ice cube tray. Freeze, then pop them out into a ziplock bag. One cube = one egg.

Some people have had trouble getting the egg cubes to pop out. One person even said they broke the ice cube tray because they tried so very hard. So, you may want to spray the ice cube tray with cooking spray and see if that helps.

Others like to freeze the whites and yolks separately.

Yolks, whether separate or part of a whole egg, will become lumpy after freezing, but this can be avoided by stirring in a 1/2-teaspoon salt per 1-cup of egg or yolks. If using for desserts, use 1-tablespoon sugar or corn syrup per 1-cup yolks or whole eggs.

Why are they called “yolks?” Yolk. Yolk. What a funny word.

You can just freeze the eggs in a freezer container instead of the ice cube tray, and then measure out the amount you want. (Thaw by putting in the refrigerator the day before you want to use them) Here is a handy chart for that:

Whole Eggs
3 whole eggs = 1/2 cup
1 whole egg = 3 tablespoons

Yolks
6-7 yolks = 1/2 cup
1 yolk = 1 tablespoon

Whites
4-6 whites = 1/2 cup
1 white = 2 tablespoons

One reader (Hi Caleb!) has a good suggestion: crack the eggs directly into a freezer bag. He prefers making bags of two eggs since that’s what most of his recipes call for. He doesn’t mix the eggs or fool around with salt or sugar. He lays them flat in the freezer so they take up very little space.

Or, go walk on the wild side. This will sound heretical, but you could just Put The Egg In The Freezer. Just as it is. Shell and all. It won’t explode. It may crack, and while this is disturbing, you may decide you feel ok about it. Cracked eggs aren’t a great idea because eggs can harbor salmonella. But if the egg is frozen, and then thawed and cooked thoroughly, you may decide the chances of contamination are pretty small. Your mileage may vary.

Be aware that thawed eggs will seem watery, but will cook up just fine.

 

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