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Today at the Old School, you’ll have a substitute teacher. The Damsel kindly asks that you dispose of any bad thoughts about that. This sub is not mean or cranky. On the contrary, she’s smart, sassy, and super nice. Here’s her bio, straight from her adorable website, The Clever Mommy:

Krystal lives in Colorado with her husband, a self-proclaimed broken hipster, and their son, whom they lovingly refer to as, The Bug.  The list of things she loves includes (among other things) sewing, decorating, the Pacific Ocean, classic films, classic literature, cooking and baking, chocolate, shoes, and nail polish.  She spends her days chasing after The Bug, picking up her husband’s wet towels and dirty socks, blogging, sewing, cooking, and trying to make her home as comfortable as she can.

See? The Damsel told you she was nice. Now then. The Clever Mommy.

There are few memories of my mother and myself in the kitchen that I remember with more fondness than the days that she would let me help her make tortillas.  Of course helping was more like watching, but I didn’t know that then.

We would spend a few hours in the afternoon, while my brothers were outside playing, making a huge batch of soft delicious tortillas.  They would be used in various meals during the week, and heated in a pan, topped with a little melted butter for snacks.  She would tell me about how she learned to make them from the mother of one of her friends in school, who had come to the United States from Mexico.  Inevitably the story would turn to the time that she was spending the night at that friend’s home and was asked to stir the soup that was cooking on the stove.  I would cringe and giggle at the same time when she told me about the goat eye ball floating in the soup when she lifted the lid to stir.  Apparently they didn’t waste any parts of the animal when they cooked.

These stories still float through my head as I make tortillas in my own home, without Mom.  And the tortillas are still super soft and super delicious.  So delicious, in fact, that I forsake my gluten-free diet every once in a while simply to make and eat these tortillas.

Authentic tortillas are made with lard.  If you want a truly authentic flavor, you should use lard, too.  I am a vegetarian, however, and the shortening that I use works just fine.  I’ve even used butter in a pinch.
To make 18 tortillas, you’ll need the following ingredients:

3 C. flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 C. shortening (or lard)

3/4 C. HOT water (as hot as you can handle it)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and then cut the shortening in with a pastry cutter or your hands.  The mixture should look crumbly.  If it’s not crumbly, and more resembles flour, you need to add a bit more shortening.

Add the hot water and mix with your hands or a fork (I’ve heard a stand mixer is great for using nearly boiling water without having to touch it).  Press against the sides of the bowl to pick up all of the dough.  If it’s sticking to the sides, you need to add a bit more flour.  You should have a nice moist dough that can be formed into a ball.

Form the dough into 18 balls, and then let them rest, covered with a damp kitchen towel, for an hour.

tortilla dough balls

Lightly flour your working surface, coat your rolling pin with flour, and roll out a dough ball until paper thin.  It will not be perfectly round (unless you have some magical tortilla rolling powers that I lack).

rolling out the tortilla

Heat a frying pan (I prefer stainless steel) over medium heat, and place the tortilla in the pan.  Let it cook until it starts to bubble up, about a minute, then flip it over.

cooking the tortilla

Let it cook another minute or so, and place it in between two kitchen towels.

tortilla stack

All of my kitchen towels were dirty, so I had to use paper towels. Don’t judge.

Continue the process with the remaining balls of dough, and stack them all in between the two towels.  Store them in a large ziplock bag in the fridge to keep them soft.  If they do get a bit hard, all it takes is a few seconds in the microwave or in a hot pan on the stove to make them soft and pliable again.


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food co-ops

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What’s a food co-op? It’s nothing more than a group of people who band together to buy food in bulk. The more people in the co-op, the more buying power. Lower prices. Better access to items.

The Damsel has heard about these arrangements for years but was sad because there didn’t seem to be any co-ops operating near the Cottage by the Mountains. But that’s changed! Happiness!

It’s actually a very old-fashioned idea. Grandma was no stranger to co-ops. People relied on each other for many things in the old days, from helping each other harvest, quilting, construction and child care to out-and-out purchasing co-ops. They were completely common–in the U.S. and Europe as well. The Damsel likes the cozy sound of it all.

So in the modern version, co-op organizers negotiate to buy directly from food brokers who normally only sell to grocery stores. You buy a “share” of the total, and often you volunteer to keep things running–helping divvy the food up, clean up, etc. In return you get a nice bushel or two of fresh food–often produce, but some co-ops extend to meat, bakery items, and more. It’s cheaper and usually better quality.

The Damsel ADORES her local co-op and becomes quite cranky if she can’t participate every week as is her habit. She never knows exactly what will be in the offering, but that’s part of the fun. It’s been great to try produce she normally wouldn’t buy. And hello, the family is EATING VEGETABLES. How is this not good? And she doesn’t mean to sound like there is a whole lot of bizarre stuff. Nearly everything is “normal” food like potatoes, carrots, bananas, apples, lettuce, etc.

Here’s a photo of one of the weekly produce baskets the Damsel acquired. There were apples, bananas, a pineapple, potatoes, blackberries, mushrooms, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, carrots, grape tomatoes, and broccoli. THIS COST $15.

The Damsel can only say, “I know!”

But her purpose is not to make you jealous. It is the Damsel’s wish that you partake. If you live in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, Washington, or Texas, go to Bountiful Baskets and see if there is a location handy enough for you. Another option for Utah folks is The Community Food Co-op of Utah. In other areas, a Google search may lead you to Produce Nirvana.

The Damsel has heard of co-ops where a person actually buys a percentage of a farmer’s crop. (sometimes called CSA’s, or Community Supported Agriculture) With this type, you know what produce you are getting because you know what he plants. You also participate in the risks and uncertainties of farming, right along with the farmer. The Damsel doesn’t know of this sort of co-op in her area, but perhaps one of you dear students does.

The spirit of the co-op is worth preserving.

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announcing a birth

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Y’all know the Damsel loves babies. Human babies, lilac babies, even apple babies. But today is the birth of a different kind of baby: a shiny new blog.

Not another of her own, oh no. The Damsel is done propagating for now. But you simply must click over to see Perfectly Lazy. The Damsel is beside herself with excitement about this new blog. She’s known it was coming for quite some time, and frankly, it was nearly impossible to keep from blabbing about it. But The Perfectly Lazy One has flipped the on switch, so it’s time, people. It’s time.

Here’s Cheryl, the proud new mother. Maybe you met her at the Casual Bloggers Conference. She’s neato. So go see. Get her button. Leave her a housewarming comment. Get to know her. Then come back and tell the Damsel what you think. This is her wish.

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propagating lilacs

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Students of the Old School know the Damsel loves old fashioned things–and that includes old fashioned flowers like Grandma had in her garden. And the flower she loves best is lilacs.

There’s something sweetly innocent about these little blossoms. Cute, yes, but it’s their fragrance the Damsel loves so dearly.

The Damsel has a few lilac bushes in her yard but because there can never be enough lilacs in the world for her taste, she decided to learn how to take cuttings from her bushes to make more. The Damsel has considerable practice at making babies and would like to say that making baby lilacs is ridiculously easy. Comparatively speaking.

There are a few ways of bringing a new lilac baby into the world. This is perhaps the easiest…digging up and replanting a sucker.

Lilacs can grow pretty large. This specimen is only a teenager…planted some ten years ago when it was a 2 foot tall stick. If you don’t have lilacs of your own to use, you may know someone who wouldn’t mind giving you a start.

On a day that’s not too hot, look at the base of the bush. Usually, you’ll see a large woody base, almost tree-ish, out of which branches and stems are growing. Some, like in this picture, seem to be growing out of the ground but are actually attached to the mother base. These are baby “suckers,” feeding off the mother plant. The parallels to human motherhood are obvious.

With a sharp shovel, slice deeply downward next to the mother base, separating the sucker from the mother. Hopefully, a few roots will remain on the sucker.

Put this baby in its own hole, tamp the soil around it, and water well.

The Damsel’s #4 sprog left for a Mormon mission this week, and it indeed felt like something was sliced off. It wasn’t that she didn’t know this day would come. She knew when she got him, she couldn’t keep him tiny forever. Still, the slice-off hurt like the devil.

But proud! So proud. And so joyous the child survived the faltering attempts at parenting…being a guinea pig for his parents’ on-the-job training…to become strong enough to survive the slice.

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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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