The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

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Sunday 21 January 2018

The World within your Walls. Get the handmaidens working!

A big chunk of keeping things nice at home is work!  Work to keep things clean and fresh,  keep up with the laundry,  keep meals on the table and everything it takes to keep on top of things.  And it is never ending!   But the results are so good!   We feel so much better when we are on top of it all and things look lovely.   When linen is fresh on the bed, things are aired and floors are clean I feel happy happy happy!  Peace and beauty in the home is the goal but it takes a lot of work!

Most of us have good days and bad days on this!  The two things that help me most are thinking of housework as a workout (as it is!) and getting the handmaidens working.
It was Laine who first made me realise I have handmaidens.  I think this came from a letter someone wrote to her that went something like "it was all very well for the Proverbs woman as she had handmaidens and we don't..."  the old  "It's all very well for others but not for me!"  But Laine pointed out where maybe once there was a woman washing clothes and another making the bread now we have washing machines and bread makers.   They are doing the work of hours of manual labor.  If you have ever hand washed or even used an old machine like Nan had with the wringer... you will know how much hard work it was!   It took all day!  The trick is to realise we have handmaidens and to make the most of them. Get the handmaidens working!

First thing in the morning I think to myself "ok, get everyone going!"  All my helpers can be going at once.   I put on some washing.   If the dishwasher is full I put that on.  Often I will add some items so that the dishwasher is doing some dusting for me too.
Get the slow cooker going.  Maybe the whole meal,  perhaps baked potatoes as we are having a BBQ dinner or maybe stewing some fruit.  Usually something.  Sometimes two or three are all going!
Often I will have a main in one and a desert in another.

My slow cooker cheesecake.   
Very easy desert that lasts all week! 

Because of these handmaidens working to my advantage I always have meals in the freezer. Left over soup is frozen in containers...

I made curries, casseroles and stews in large quantities so several dinners are taken care of and so really my handmaiden gives me nights off! 

Many of the casseroles become meat pies.  These go into the freezer too.  And so my handmaidens provide emergency meals and save us from every needing to buy takeaway.  

These hard workers save so much money as well!  

You might have a bread maker...  I just use my mix master with the dough hook and then "someone" is doing the needing for me.

Other handmaidens might be robot vacuum's,   garden watering systems,  dryer,  food processor... you might have office handmaidens too like "someone" is answering the phone for you!
So now a lot is happening!  The day is up and running and moving along.

Very often I hear someone say they are too tired at night to make dinner.  I just think they forgot to get their handmaidens working.  The morning is the time to get things started, BEFORE you are exhausted, and before the busy evening when babies cry, little children are tired and there's bath time, homework, after school sports and so many things that seem to happen all at once!   For most of my life if I was trying to make dinner then it would have been interesting.  Usually I have it made or part made earlier in the day which at least makes serving it possible.   As I mentioned the other day setting the table during the day is another way to help with the evenings.   It makes you look readier than you actually are!  😊

My friend Frances had five teenage boys at one time.  She organised her handmaidens well.  She had her bread maker timed to have a fresh loaf just in time for the boys to walk in the door home from school.  They were treated with the smell of fresh cooking!   She had it timed to be ready at breakfast!

Now and then I need a review of how I am using the things that could be helping me.  If your appliances aren't working properly, maintained and kept clean they start to become less and less helpful.  If your bread maker or mix master is in the bottom cupboard and you have to crawl on your hands and knees to even get it out then you probably just conclude it is easier to not use it!  We have to set things up to HELP US!  I learned a lot just from this post here:  The Baking Centre.  A little work invested to set things up well can mean your handmaidens are much more useful!
We might have appliances we don't even know how to use properly with functions we don't even know we have i.e. many bread makers will make jam, the dish washer can take care of things other than dishes like the filter on your range hood...  and many more!   If you use laundry wash bags for little bits and pieces the dishwasher can handle all sorts of things like small toys etc.

How can you get your handmaidens helping you more?
Are there any that you would like to have that you don't now?  Appliances can be very inexpensive with things like buy, sell and swap groups etc.
You can truly multi task with a few workers all going together.  This can really get the ball rolling!  It is a good feeling!

Have a wonderful week!
I am making afternoon tea for Mum and Lucy as they have their birthdays two days apart!  You guessed it,  I set out the table yesterday!
Last night I went walking and collecting the last nectarines.  There are a few more there, just tiny ones.   And I checked the peach tree.  Oh my goodness there are hundreds and they are a deep peach in colour.   Still firm although a few are falling.  It is time to pick them before the birds get them all.  So tonight I will go with my big basket and I think each night this week.  I am so excited!  I can send Dad and Chloe peaches too when Mum goes back to the farm.  Peach cake... fresh peaches for breakfasts. Grilled peaches and salad,  poached peaches!
I am making hay while the sun shines with peaches on the laneway tree! xxx


  1. Great post. It is nice that we have aides that our grandparents and often times our parents didn't have. It sure makes life easier.
    Organization is a HUGE factor for me.

  2. Thank you for this blog today! What a great idea, handmaidens :). Thank you and Laine for this idea, it makes me smile to find a new way to turn work into a positive.

  3. Thanks for the tip about casseroles/curries making pie fillings. We usually get through a curry but sometimes there's a bit left over so making a curry pie makes perfect sense. We live on 2.5 acres just out of town and I wish we'd planted fruit trees when we first built the house. We had sheep to eat down the block so fruit trees would've got eaten.

    1. Dear Joolz, I am plotting and planning as I know if we move to the SE we will have sheep, cattle, deer, bunnies.... all thinking how tasty everything is. And deer seem to be able to jump anything. I think if we can get a fenced off area for an orchard this would be ideal. Fingers crossed. When it is established the chooks could run underneath... I have big plans as you can see! There are fig trees on the farm which is a bonus! I build up pies in the freezer, my fav are from a chicken or turkey casserole. But anything works! With love

  4. Exactly! I am thankful for all those helpers in my home. My grandmother had a wringer washer and when I was a child I thought it was the neatest thing in the world but I hardy think she thought so. Now that my husband is home everyday he starts the washer every morning first thing and by the time I get downstairs I can move the first load to the dryer.

    I already have my crock pot out for loading in the morning first thing because I will deliver a meal to a friend late afternoon and I need to get it going first thing. What a blessing to be able to fill it with ingredients and let it do the work. Our freezer supplies us with so many meals and I am so thankful to have it. If you have a family to feed everyday then it is worth spending money on the equipment to help you do it. When the kids were all still home we had two waffle makers so that we could all eat waffles together. I had stacks of casserole dishes so that I had enough to make large casseroles for the freezer. For years we kept two coffee makers on the counter because we had so much company that it made sense to be able to make two pots of coffee at once.

    The peaches sound lovely! I am thinking they taste like summertime sunshine. Enjoy!

    1. Dear Lana, I keep so many pile dishes! They all fit inside each other which is handy. With the peaches I will make many cobblers (crisps) pies, etc and my dishes will get used up. Lucky for freezer space here too. It sounds like you had a production line! I am glad of extra appliances and a back up too! With love

  5. Annabel you are so fortunwte you don't have fruit fly there otherwise that fruit would be ruined. Such a good harvest you have. Quite amazing.

    1. Nanna Chel there is a scare here with many suburbs quarantined with an outbreak. So far so good here. These are all extremely healthy. Fingers crossed this doenst get out of hand! I have my eye on two quince trees coming up too! xxx

  6. Thank you so much for reminding me of this advice from Laine. You have updated it well. God bless you!
    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage
    Carthage, Missouri, USA

  7. Great post! I wish it was summer here, the peaches sound wonderful!
    And organization is a must for running a household efficiently for sure.
    I am going to try to set my table everyday now, it's a little thing but sounds really wonderful.

  8. handmaidens! love it! i am new to crock-pot cooking & was wondering if you could put some of these ideas you said here into some recipes? i am not a very good cook & keep most dishes simple.
    my sister lives in tassie & when i went to visit her 2yrs ago her nectarine tree was full of fruit! my daughter & i stood there just picking & eating the fruit straight off the tree! sis thought we were nuts but understood once we told her about the fruit fly problem here in qld; nothing beats fresh fruit straight from the tree does it?
    great post
    thanx for sharing

    1. Dear Selina, Simple recipes will work so well in the crockpot. Mimi on her site A Tray of Bliss has a series called something like recipes in four sentences or less. You should love this and she does a lamb in the crockpot... it never fails and is AMAZING. On my side bar I have my index and there is a crockpot cooking series. It is super simple and lots of different types of things. I will add to this over time too. Fresh fruit straight from the tree is beautiful! I am off to pick peaches tonight! With love

    2. Mimi's lamb is amazing. Works well for lamb shanks, if you can get them at a good price, too.


  9. Hello Annabel and everyone :) .

    I also have a bake centre as I keep tubs of flour, sugar, oats and honey in 10lt storage containers in the kitchen for topping up our smaller containers with that are on top of the pantry in the kitchen. We also being in a small workers cottage have all of our appliances mostly used on a wooden mantelpiece over where the wood stove I would say used to be and others in cupboards on the right of the kitchen. Our baking supplies are either on top of the pantry or in the pantry directly behind the kitchen benches, honey and spreads are in small containers on the benches, and spices are displayed on a small belt rail in the kitchen. Everything is easily accessible to cook with and we also have multiple pie dishes, spatulas, whisks and measuring spoons and cups in a drawer in the kitchen.

    In relation to appliance maintenance we sharpen the blades of the food processor and knives with our knife sharpener and remove the bottom seal of the bread maker to clean around the mechanism and clean the inside of the bread machine often. This makes the appliances work efficiently all the time.

    Annabel you are so right about using our appliances to the best of our advantage as handmaidens to help us in our daily tasks. I quite often multitask and put a loaf of bread on in the bread making machine, have the washing machine doing a cycle and sometimes also have a roast going in the oven too if we are outside doing a day of gardening so it is ready when we come in from outside. It saves so much time :).

    Nanna Chel with the fruit fly you can get quite a few products that are organic to spray fruit trees with and also I cannot recommend more to companion plant your vegetables with other plants that deter the bugs. For instance we plant either garlic or basil alternating around our tomatoes which stops fruit fly. I hope this helps you and the Yates seed site has a great free companion planting guide on it you can print out to help you.

    Have a wonderful week ahead everyone :) .


    1. Dear Sewingcreations, Everything easily accessible and a baking centre are just huge time savers. Getting things going is just so much quicker!
      I think the order we do things is huge too... like you say getting things on while we do other things, the order is important. So thinking ahead is important.
      Very good ideas, and you do great with the maintenance, with love

  10. Bluey has had another infection and has spent the last few days unwell. He is getting better but his being unwell has meant the handmaidens have been hard at work. Today all the bedding including the pillows and crochet woollen blanket needed washing. They were wet from the amount of sweating a shivering Bluey did overnight. As I dont want whatever ha had the steam cleaner has been called into action to clean off door handles, light switches, tap wear and other touchable surfaces. Whilst all this was happening the bore was pumping water onto the garden, the freezer was making ice to keep drinks cold and the vacuum was making short work of cleaning the floors. Have to love the old handmaidens and how they allow us to get so much done.

    1. I hope Bluey gets better soon, Jane! xx Jen in NS

    2. Dear Jane, thinking of you and bluey.i hope Bluey feels better soon , please pass on my best wishes to bluey bluebird!. Hope his nest gets feathered with nice soft flannel hankies and his be carnage of choice and please tell him to stay cool.i know he is in good hands with you as you are a certified bluebird and you have your handmaidens working beautifully. Sending you all hugs. Is it ok if I email you Jane?.i still have your email address. Take care love Barb W

  11. I always wish I had a maid. I didn't think about how I already do! Today I decided to make chicken noodle soup in my crockpot. It will be cooking along as I do my other work. Very thankful for the time we live in our ancestors had to very hard.

  12. I love this post. I've heard someone call all those things their 'servants' too. Yesterday (Sunday) I put on a load of clothes to wash after church. My dad said "you aren't supposed to wash clothes on Sunday." I replied "all I did was push a button!" :-))))

    1. Dear Little Penpen, Yes you can let your servant do the work while you go to church. I often let the washer work and go to bed! Its very good.
      Another I have realised is letting things soak in the washer over night then washing them in the morning. This is good for whitening things etc. Many thanks! with love

  13. Annabelle, such an encouraging post! I'm old enough to remember the wringer washer and I helped hang many a load on the outside line to dry. My sister and I were the dishwashers. No slow cookers, bread makers, food processors. I can remember Mother beating cake batter by hand, bless her. It was a real event when we got an electric mixer. Thanks for the reminder about how good I have it! Handmaidens - what a wonderful attitude to have about our tools. By the way - those glass cookie jars with silver lids and red knobs that Laine described - I have the exact same jars for my flour, sugar, etc.!
    Blessings to everyone,

    1. Dear Phyllis,
      I think many of us dont appreciate appliances so much as we never had to do things the old way! If we did things the old way for a week we would love all we have now! Your kitchen canisters sound lovely! With love

  14. Timely post as always Annabel! I LOVE the idea of handmaidens doing our work for us! I put my handmaidens to work this morning and am looking forward to using them more. I do have to admit since being laid off in November from my job I have had difficulty in getting going on projects. Christmas was the top priority and I did manage to get all of my sewing and hampers done with a week to spare. I now am looking at de-junking my house and get moving on the building up of my gift cupboard. thank you so much for the inspiration that you impart each and every post it is so helpful in keeping all of us in the Bluebird Nation going!
    Love Gaila in the NW

  15. Annabel,

    I love this post! I am off to put some of this into practice!

    xx Jen in NS

  16. What a really great post. We do have so many things to help us with our work, that we really don't have an excuse to not get things done.

    1. Organising our helpers really makes a difference! This is true! And we need all the help we can get!xxx

  17. Hi Annabel (and everyone),

    Wow, that cheesecake looks delicious! I am stunned that it came out of a crockpot.

    The stand-up freezer and crockpot are my two most used and most appreciated "handmaidens". Making better use of the freezer and using it for leftovers for future dinners, to freeze extra fruit until I have time to deal with it, and to put up a nice supply of baked treats for lunches and if we have unexpected company has been one of the best things I've learned from you guys. It makes life so much easier!

    The crockpot is really wonderful for making big batches for future meals, especially when I need to be able to step away from the food cooking and do other things, and it makes broth-making and homemade applesauce so easy. I'd like to learn more about dessert-making in them!

    Oh, I thought of another one - my Kitchenaid mixture! "She" sure works hard - and I love to use it to make mashed potatoes.

    Our inside refrigerator will likely need replacing in another few yearsl; right now I would really like the kind with the freezer in the bottom. It seems like it would be much easier to organize than the side-by-side that we have. And it would be nice to use my sewing machine more, instead of being afraid of it, haha! It is on my list for this year.

    I hope you all have a great week.

    1. Dear Kathy,
      Anything that needs cooking in a waterbath is great in the crockpot hence cheesecake, baked custards, creme caramel etc.
      I have never thought to use the kitchen aid to make mashed potatoes! Oh my goodness I am awful at them. Do you just use the cake mixer? Tell all on this!
      I am dreaming of a bigger fridge. And freezer. If we move to the country this will be necessary.
      Truly the fifteen minutes a day is all you need to conquer the sewing machine and make a lot. Small increments seem to work really well!
      Thank you for your comment you gave me some new ideas! With love

    2. Hi Annabel,

      That is amazing! Thanks for the info.

      The KitchenAid saved me with mashed potatoes! I just use the paddle/flat beater. After I've boiled and drained my potatoes, I mix them on "stir" just until they've broken up a bit. Then, I add some milk or cream (I eyeball this, but really it just depends on how soft or stiff you like your potatoes), parsley, and black pepper, and mix on about 4 until they are ready. It does not take long at all - I just watch to see when the texture looks right (chunky homestyle or smooth are both possible). The metal bowl also helps keep them hot if you have other things to do to finish the meal.

      Hope you have a great day!

    3. Try roasting instead of boiling the potatos and just a quick mashing.

  18. Annabel, this post is such an inspiration. I am a bit overwhelmed at the moment with a family member chronically ill. I truly need all the help I can get to be more motivated. This has really opened my eyes to the "help" I already have at my fingertips. Organisation is key, and I just need to set things going early in the morning, and plan ahead a bit more. Your posts are so cheerful and encouraging and I have no doubt they make a huge difference in the lives of all who read them. This post especially has made me see things differently and I am off now to get the "handmaidens" working. Thank you so much for all the beautiful photos and encouraging posts that you share so freely with us all. Have a great day everyone! Del

    1. Dear Del,
      I am sorry you have someone so ill. This is very hard. Planning and getting things going early helps. Also delegation. If you need help and there are possible helpers sometimes we have to have this extra support.
      Thank you for such kind words! With love,

  19. Our Pastor recently talked about all the "servants" we have in our modern times, meaning appliances and labor-saving devices. I have been thinking about this concept ever since! Your post fits right in! Thanks for sharing it. It is fun to manage our "handmaidens," and to know that they enjoy working for us!

    1. Dear Julie, Your Pastor sounds great! It is funny that you got this coming at you from different directions! Really I was thinking Google etc are servants if we use them well i.e. to search for the best price on something, a recipe, useful things... it is amazing! And online ordering and postal deliveries... I save so much running around, fuel, parking and time this way. Interesting subject! With love

  20. I do this but never think about it as having a maid. Always about the work to get things started and to then finish them off. But, of course, I am spared the actual WORK of all of the hard, middle bit. Yes there is some work involved in gathering and sorting washing for each load and in hanging it and bringing it in and putting it away....but gosh! I am glad I don't have to hand wash it all.

    There is work in setting up the soaker hoses and moving them around to different parts....but again, gosh, I am glad I don't have to stand out there hand watering the whole lawn.

    I am on my third slow cooker. I've never used one. They come...and go to the op shop unused. This time I will learn to use it and see if it is a good handmaiden for me.

    I have one of those benchtop oven in a bowl things and when I got it I absolutely hated it. Stuck it in my cupboard and didn't touch it for two years. It is now my favourite thing. It cooks perfect roasts. I just had to learn how to use it properly. As a bonus I can plug it in outside so that in heatwaves as Australia has been having, I can cook with no heat in my house. But the best thing about it is that it is so easy to clean, Takes literally less than a minute and because I never use my real oven now I never have to clean it. Hate cleaning the oven.

    Likewise I had a dishwasher for twenty years but I didn't use it. Then I had children and decided it was useful. Yesterday my dishwasher broke down and I couldn't get the repairman here quick enough to fix it. LOL. I am using it as a handmaiden not only to wash the dishes we use but also many other things when the load isn't quite full. I am working my way through my kitchen, cupboard by cupboard, giving everything a huge clean out and putting everything through the dishwasher....slowly as the not-quite-full loads allow but it gets done with little extra effort from me.

    And I am regarding my fan as a handmaiden. There are tasks that I can bring to do in front of it that I wouldn't otherwise do in the heat.

    A small shift in mindset has great impact. Thinking of the work that I am SAVED from having to do by using my handmaidens, rather than the work involved in setting them to work and dealing with the after effects of their work is a great shift in thinking to make. Thank you.

    1. Dear Lorax, I have done the same with appliances, mainly my stubborn issue has been failure to ever read the instructions! Now I am kind of better at learning how to use something, maintain it... this has helped me.
      I think the slow cooker will be like the bench top cooker for you. Now that thing makes perfect roasts.... and a perfect roast is a real family pleaser, makes dinner, leaves useful cold meat for other things... cleaned easily! So you probably dont need the slow cooker for roasts. Oh yeh... the other thing is like you say they save oven cleaning which is probably the worst household job there is! Both save electricity over an oven as well...
      But back to the slow cooker... curries, casseroles, soups, stock... these are wonderful in the slow cooker. I make giant pots of soup all winter. It is wonderful.
      Thank you for your great comment. It is all about mindset. I am working on learning new ways to use things i.e. your using the dishwasher to just give things a good wash other than the dishes. I also like the soaker cycle on the washing machine... I never used that and now I love it! Thanks so much! With love

  21. Definitely love your blog!!!

  22. I'd never thought of my appliances as handmaidens, but you (and dear Laine) have my mind a-whir now with thankfulness. I shared this with Blossom and she too sees with new eyes the handmaidens at her disposal. Enjoy those peaches and the birthdays!

  23. Annabel as you know I love my vintage magazines and one hint that comes up periodically has been an absolute help to me on my days alone. That is to make my lunch every morning before I get busy, not just prepping my dinner for the main meal. If I haven't leftovers I prepare food for myself. I'm more likely to eat a salad if it's ready prepared so I do that in the morning. When I'm busy working I don't often think of lunch until I'm hungry and then I'll grab any old thing and hang over the sink eating it and that's no good! So I go right on and prepare myself something in the morning (or at least have a meal planned out) and I set up a glass and plate and silverware and set a timer to heat the foods. Then I stop and have a proper meal and eat it at the dining table. It's shocking how restorative that little thing is.

  24. Thanks for the post! I keep my "servant girls" busy everyday! My Crockpot is going at night with bone broth or yogurt. Days it is full of marinated meat, soup, or casseroles. My bread machine gets allot of use on dough setting. We use Laine's whole wheat bread recipe (Uncle Raymond's) for sandwiches or french bread. Lovely!


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