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The Damsel attended the Casual Bloggers’ Conference this weekend. While she was there she was fascinated, interested, anxious, terrified, curious, thirsty, jealous, touched and amused.

She apologizes that despite the fact she lugged around a huge camera bag, she took No. Pictures. Whatsoever. She cannot explain this phenomenon.

The Damsel learned a lot about how to make the Old School better. She learned stuff about search engine optimization and commenting and html and WordPress. She heard the term “niche blogging” and reaffirmed to herself that from the very start, the Old School has been intended to be thus.

But as she sat listening to keynote speaker CJane, she felt a little sad inside that the how-to nature of this blog has prevented the posts from being as heart-felt as they might be. Yes, perhaps the Old School is missing a sophisticated banner or fancy coding, but it’s missing something more–a truer connection with its “students.”

The Damsel loves the Old School’s niche of preserving old skills and teaching self reliance. She’s passionate about it. But she looks forward to connecting to you, dear students, with more heart and spirit. Thanks for coming to class.

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The Damsel is pleased to share this fabulously talented cook with you. These pretzels are definitely Grandma-approved.
Good morning to everyone! I am Jamie Cooks It Up! and am happy to be guest posting today! I run a food blog full of family friendly recipes. Most of the recipe’s are made from scratch with a large emphasis on bread making and baking. I have a lot of entree dishes, salads and sides as well. Hope you’ll hop over and
While I’m happy to be posting here today…I am not so happy to look out my window and look at my 30 snow covered tomato plants! Who would have thought!
Not me.
That’s who.
However it is a great day to make some homemade Soft Jumbo Pretzels! If you have never worked with yeast before this would be a fun recipe to start with.
Just follow the instructions and you will be good to go!
I do highly recommend using a Kitchen Aid or Bosch mixer for this recipe. The dough is pretty stiff in the beginning and can be hard to handle without a mixer. Good Luck!
I hope they turn out well for you!
Soft Jumbo Pretzels

Yield: 12 jumbo pretzels
Time: 3 hours

4 t yeast (active dry or instant)
1 t sugar
1 1/4 C warm water
5 C flour
1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 t salt
1 T canola oil
10 C hot boiling water
3/4 C baking soda
Pretzel salt to taste
1 egg, whipped until frothy

1. In the bottom of your Kitchen Aid or Bosch Mixer dissolve 1 t sugar and the yeast in the warm water. I just stir it around a bit with a spoon. Let it sit for 5 minutes, or until the mixture begins to bubble and rise.

2. Add salt, 1/2 C sugar, oil, yeast, and 1 C of the flour. Mix for about 30 seconds.

3. Add the rest of the flour 1 C at a time. This recipe needs ALL 5 CUPS of the flour. It will seem a bit stiff at first, but the pretzels still turn out very soft with all 5 cups. You need this much flour, or your finished product will be more roll like than pretzel like.

4. Once all the flour is added mix on high for about 8 minutes.

5. Let the dough rest and rise for 1 1/2-2 hours. The dough needs to rise until at least doubled in size. This recipe takes a while to rise, but don’t cheat this step. The pretzels will be much more difficult to roll out if the dough hasn’t risen enough.

6. Heat your oven to 450 degrees.

7. Punch the dough down and divide it into 12 equal portions. I used a sharp knife sprayed with cooking spray and a cutting board for this step.

8. Place each piece on a sprayed cookie sheet and let them rest for 10 minutes. Don’t skip this step….unless you enjoy letting the dough rule over you while you shape it. Give it a rest an you will be In-Charge-Marge. Otherwise, the dough is very hard to manipulate.

9. Combine the 10 C water and baking soda in a large pot. Bring it to a boil.

10. While the water heats, roll each dough piece into a long thin rope. Twist it into a pretzel shape.

11. Put each piece (one at a time) into the boiling water for 30 seconds.

12. Place on a sprayed cookie sheet and brush the beaten egg over the top. Sprinkle with pretzel salt.

13. Bake for 8 minutes at 450 degrees. Enjoy!

We opted to leave the pretzel salt off on occasion. When they came out of the oven we brushed butter on the top and sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar…..delicious!

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opening stuck jar lids

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Grandma dealt with this problem on a regular basis. Home canned jars are notorious for being hard to open. That’s because in the home canning process, canning liquid often gets sucked up into the lid area and dries.

But even a store-bought jar can be hard to open.

1. Is there a man/and/or/teenager with big, strong hands around? If so, ask him to open the jar. This will make him feel good about himself.

2. Get traction. Wrap rubber bands, (the kind that come on broccoli work well) around the lid to give it some grabbyness. A piece of rubbery shelf liner works too.

The Damsel has even heard of a person using a mouse pad. He got the lid open and also felt happy that his mouse pad actually did something useful.

3. Run hot water over the lid area. This not only loosens any dried stuff, but expands the metal a bit so it will let go of the glass a little easier. The Damsel saves this one for last because once the jar is wet, everything is slippery.

4. There are other ways, like prying around the lid with a spoon or can opener to lessen the vacuum. Some folks hit the jar with things; others hit the jar against things. People even stab the lid with a knife, thus relieving the vacuum. This gives the Damsel an uncomfortable feeling inside.

Let’s not open that can of worms.

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trailing rose petals

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Extra credit assignment: click over to Mormon Mommy Blogs for a post by the Damsel, where she gets all nostalgic and stuff about grown-up babies.

Trailing Rose Petals

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homemade detangler

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Moms and kids have hated the hair-combing ritual since ancient times.

and in many lands.

The Damsel likes how this mom has sort of got her kid trapped on her lap in order to do the deed. The Damsel has used this move herself.

It’s true that some types of hair are harder to come out than others.

Baby-fine hair can be bad. Curly, fuzzy hair can be bad. But thankfully, we live in modern times when there is such a thing as “detangler.”

The Damsel bought this by the bucketful back in the day, to use on her darling daughter’s curly hair. There were some difficult moments. The Damsel is grateful that now this daughter is 25, she’s been combing her own hair for years.

It’s easy to make your own detangler, which thing the Damsel never supposed until it was everlastingly too late.

Simply commandeer an empty spray bottle. Fill it 1/4 full of conditioner, then top off with water. Shake well before using.  Go easy–a little goes a long way.

For a particularly bad snaggle, try rubbing a small bit of full-strength conditioner into the spot. Sometimes, the conditioner will make the hair strands slippery enough to untangle them.


There’s always scissors.

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or so she says

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The Damsel is guest posting today at Or So She Says… Check it.

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If you live in the northern hemisphere and are lucky enough to have a raspberry patch, you may notice little babies growing amidst the bigger plants. Raspberries reproduce freely, even more than the humans at the Cottage by the Mountains.

Some babies grow in line with the grownup plants. These are the good babies. But others grow willy-nilly, in the path between rows or even in your grass. You must do something with these. Otherwise, the babies grow up and start getting into trouble. They join gangs and hurt people. Your patch will get clogged with thorny plants until it’s pretty much impossible to walk among them without bleeding. The Damsel’s had problems with her raspberry babies in the past, so she’s passing on a word of warning. Don’t let your raspberry patch resemble the thorny hedge around Sleeping Beauty’s castle. This is her wish.

You can ruthlessly pull them up. It seems cruel, but you must remember that any plant that’s growing in the wrong place is a weed.

Or, you can use the babies to increase your raspberry kingdom. These plants aren’t that delicate, so they withstand transplanting well. Find a likely spot and dig about a bit, to loosen the soil. Make a hole to receive the baby, maybe six inches deep. Then simply dig the baby up with a shovel (not a hand trowel) and place it in the hole, disturbing the roots as little as possible. Add more soil if necessary and firm it around the baby. Water well.

If you’re making a row, place them at least two feet apart. The babies will grow into teenagers this year, and next year they’ll start making berries…and babies…of their own. Circle of Life.

If you’re local to the Cottage by the Mountains, (northern Utah) the Damsel is putting her raspberry babies up for adoption. It’s the right thing to do. Email her at mhovley at gmail dot com if you’re interested.

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a button, a button

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The Damsel’s sprog #2 has drawn this delightful button for the Old School.

You’ll see a version of this in the sidebar now, complete with the code you’ll need to snatch this for your own site. The Damsel happily promises extra credit for any student installing said button.

The button may receive a few tweaks in the next little while, but don’t worry. The button on your site will automatically update to the new tweak. The internet is magic!

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Pesky mayonnaise! Most of the time, making it with a stick blender works perfectly and quickly. (see this post)

But sometimes!

It makes nothing but a runny, disgusting, oily mess. Sometimes it can be attributed to user error (most commonly, being impatient about letting the egg come to room temperature) but sometimes it seems to be a reason unfathomable, like the phase of the moon or which side of your head you parted your hair.

It’s sad to throw out the ingredients and start over. A sad, sad waste. It’s enough to make a person completely lose control, throw up her hands and buy a bottle of mayonnaise.


Before you do something so drastic, the Damsel has recently come upon a fix. When a mayonnaise emulsion doesn’t work, they call it “broken,” and so it is. But if you’ll invest just one more little egg yolk, all will be well again.

Put a room temperature egg yolk into a container. Add the “broken” mayo to it drip by drip while whisking madly. (you can use your stick blender if you wish) You can increase the drip rate to a small drizzle after half of the liquid has been incorporated.

Magic has returned to the earth!

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Today’s class  is a little different. Today we’ll go on a field trip to meet an amazing young woman. You could search the world and perhaps never find a more inspiring person–someone who has made the deliberate choice to accept God’s will for her, even though this means that nearly everything she assumed about her life has changed.

The Damsel hopes you’ll find this clip inspiring and touching in all the right kind of ways.

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