Lately (March)

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hello, gracious reader.

If you’re here, I just want to say thank you – thank you for sticking by me through these past couple months of infrequent posting. I care about this space very much and I thought it was high time to fill you in on some of the recent happenings in my life.

since the new year it’s been crazy. we made it through the holidays, through my husband’s new job position, through new jobs of my own (tutoring & babysitting, both of which I am loving), though an unexpected family crisis, and now through the recent surfacing of my health issues. All this on top of an already new home with unpacked boxes and routines that have yet to be found.  Needless to say, it’s been a LOT in every way.

The dust has settled some and we’re feeling our way through these changes.  Here are some of the ways I’ve been coping with change and busyness – perhaps you’ll be able to glean something through my necessary adjustments to apply to your own life

  • I’ve created a new housework routine that works, combats overwhelm & makes it possible for me to get done what needs done in spite of varying degrees of chronic fatigue. I love it! It’s so much more manageable than how I previously was doing things.
  • I’ve been fighting for my health, making necessary adjustments where need be. I’ve been getting tons of sleep, eating well, visiting doctors & getting bloodwork done, and learning about my body’s needs. [more on this subject soon.]
  • I’ve been asking for help. My husband’s been making dinner on my longest work day, which is the hugest relief.  He’s also been paying bills and doing tons of other work around the house, which takes weight off my shoulders.
  • I’ve been having fun – seeing friends, taking walks at parks, and this weekend going on an overnight trip. I’ve started viewing this time as a recovery period and giving myself the necessary grace to support that.

I want to state simply that I’m still here, that naturallyjmharris.com is not going anywhere, and that I so appreciate any grace you extend me through this transition.

Create a Housework Routine that Works

If you follow me in Instagram, you might have seen the post where I recently identified a pattern of mine: saving every single home-to do for one marathon day of cleaning/organizing/grocery shopping.  The obvious issue with this method is that it leads to overwhelm and relies on large reserves of time and energy. I’ve known this for a while, of course, but I’ve justified it by saying that I’d rather do it that way then have to clean every day.

This weekend I found myself with a house that has literally not been cleaned in weeks, an entirely empty fridge, and 5 loads of laundry that needed washing. Obviously, this “system” is not working!  With a couple of new work days and an increased amount of fatigue that I’m trying to figure out, I can’t afford to not change my ways.  I’m leaning into self-discipline once again, and I thought I’d share some of my ideas in the chance that you can relate to my craziness. This method could certainly apply to work or really anything that requires self-motivation, but for the sake of this post I’m applying it to housework to help you create a housework routine that works for you.


  1. Write out a master list of home chores and break them down.  Full disclosure: my husband and I actually wrote out the chores like this
    create a master list & break down tasks for a housework routine that works. | naturallyjmharris.com
    master list

    months ago. He’s done his share and I have as well -mostly- but I’ve never successfully broke them down. To do so, I plan to use my new get to work book project pad on a weekly basis. I’ll write out all current tasks that need accomplishing and tackle them step by step throughout the week.

  2.  Assign them to days on the calendar. To ensure a solid home rhythm, I’ll look at my planner at the start of every week and drop tasks in on the
    create a housework routine that works! | naturallyjmharris.com
    weekly task breakdown

    days I think I can accomplish them. For example, today I had “clean out oven” and “start chicken in crock pot” as priorities. If I accomplish those and have time/energy to spare, I can check the get to work book pad to see what else needs done. It’s up to you how specific you want to get with this. I’m not planning on including tasks that we do every day like the dishes. Because my days vary, I’m not planning on doing a traditional schedule (Monday laundry, Tuesday floors, and so forth), but that could work well for you.

  3. The days that I have more energy – get more done. This will easily allow for unexpected sickness, events, tasks, and so forth – not to mention days that I just don’t feel like doing housework and want to spend my energies elsewhere.
  4. Remind myself of the value of discipline. Personally – I’m doing this because it will guard against overwhelm and create peace and order in my home. I value stewardship of my home & what the Lord has given me. I value openness of my schedule and flexibility, & this will help support that.  I value my well-being and recognize that my current pattern doesn’t foster joy.

 

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Alright, friends. This is one recipe that if you haven’t tried, you really need to try. And I know I sound excited about all my recipes, BUT there is no reason not to do this one! We’ve been making our own homemade laundry detergent ever since we’ve been married, so I sometimes forget that not everyone does it. There are so many reasons to make your own homemade laundry detergent – it saves a ridiculous amount of money (the recipe below yields 5 gallons & costs less than $5 to make), it is so much safer than store bought detergent, and it just plain works.

For me, though, finding a good alternative to traditional laundry detergent was a necessity. Ever since I was little I have broken out from certain laundry detergent brands. As a teenager, I had a terrible rash all over my legs that would never heal. My mom always bought the “free and clear” versions, but as an adult, I realized that I still sometimes reacted from them. Recently I washed some clothes at her house with a name brand natural detergent and broke out from IT! Crazy. Needless to say, I have NEVER had a problem from this detergent. Additionally, our clothes don’t seem as static-y. My husband does physical labor and it cleans his nasty clothes perfectly.

So what are you waiting for?! Carve 10-15 minutes out of your day and make 5 GALLONS of this amazing detergent (you can split it in half if you desire). Let me know if you make it and what you think or if you have any questions in the comments below!

homemade laundry detergent : non-toxic, effective, & ridiculously frugal. | naturallyjmharris.com

1 Bar Dr. Bronner’s soap*
1 C. Super Washing Soda
1 C. Borax

Grate bar of soap. Heat pots of water on stove, add in bar soap and stir continually until dissolved. In a separate pot, stir in borax and super washing soda until dissolved. Pour into 5 gallon bucket. Continue to heat water until 5 gallon bucket is full (water should be very hot but not boiling). Stir well and let sit for 24 hours. Stir before use. Use 1/2-1 C. per load depending on load size.

*Please use Dr. Bronner’s! There are recipes floating around that suggest using other bar soaps. I am convinced that the reason this detergent recipe is so effective is because of the Dr. Bronner’s soap. It may be a couple dollars more than another brand, but it is completely safe and non-toxic and just plain works. If you have tried to make your own detergent before and felt it didn’t come out, that might be why! trust me.  It can be found at Target or Amazon or practically any health food store. If you’re making for a baby, they sell an unscented version too!
 
**For an especially soiled load, just sprinkle a little washing soda directly into the load or use a little extra detergent (I rarely feel the need to do this).

[yumprint-recipe id=’2′]

Crock Pot Shredded Chicken & Stock

Today I’m going to be sharing my favorite, lazy way to cook a chicken and make stock.  I’ve been cooking whole chickens and making my own stock for maybe 1.5- 2 years now, and I can’t believe I was ever intimidated by the idea. A whole chicken has become almost a cooking necessity in my house. I rely on it for the easiest way to make homemade stock, which as you’ve probably heard, is chock full of nutrients and beneficial for the immune system. It is also incredibly more flavorful and rich than the store bought versions, so I rely on it for a truly flavorful soup. And it is frugal.

When I prepare shredded chicken and stock by the method I’m describing today, I always feel like I made money. I’m convinced that this is the absolute best bang for your buck when it comes to chicken.  The chickens I buy typically hit the $5 mark. The amount of stock and meat you will get will of course vary based on the size of the chicken, but the last time I made it I got 5 cups of super rich stock and enough meat for approx. 4 meals (meals where of course the chicken isn’t the only component – see recipe ideas below). All for $5! Crazy.

crock pot shredded chicken and stock

  1. Place a whole chicken in a crock pot and cover it with fresh water, including giblets & any other bones you have (it’s okay if it’s not completely covered. My crock pot is small, so it never is. I just turn it occasionally while it’s cooking). Add any vegetables you have in your fridge to flavor – I usually use carrots, celery, and onion. Let sit for one hour with 1-2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (optional, as per the nourishing traditions cookbook)  and then turn crock pot to high. Let cook until chicken is cooked through/ 165 internal temperature – approx 4-5 hours depending on side of bird.
  2. Use a wooden spoon inserted into chicken’s cavity to carefully lift chicken out of crock pot. Once cool, shred chicken with two forks or fingers, placing all bones and unused bits into a bowl. As you can see from photo, I sometimes cut off whole breasts for an easy meal. Chicken should be very easy to cut or shred to your preference. Place cooked chicken in fridge to store.
  3. Throw entire carcass and every bone BACK into crock pot and turn crock pot to low. At this point you can add more veggies if you couldn’t fit them at step 1. Leave crock pot on for a total duration of 24 hours.
  4. Make sure your stock has cooled, and then pour through a strainer into a bowl, pressing down to release all stock. I like to use a fine strainer after this so I get a very clean stock. Store stock for up to one week in fridge and freeze any unused in jars with ample space at the top of jar.

So, a couple more thoughts:

This is only one method to prepare a whole chicken and stock. There are MANY. As I mentioned above, it is my favorite, lazy way to do so, and taking the chicken early out actually allows you to use the meat, rather than letting it dry out and cook the full 24 hours. Alternatively, you can roast the chicken and then make stock with the cooked bones (but I’d recommend throwing in some more bones for the full amount of stock this way produces).

Another reason to do it this way: easy meal prep! Shredded chicken is incredibly versatile. Here’s some recipes I’ve used it for or thought looked good:
Chicken Soup with Lime and Cilantro
Leftover Roast Chicken Soup
Crock Pot Butternut Squash, Chicken, & Quinoa Soup (you would add the chicken at the very end until just warm)
Chicken Taco Bowls (again, add chicken at very end)
-And of course it’s hardly a recipe, but we love to slather it in hot sauce.

That’s it! Let me know if you try it or have your own favorite method.

What I Learned in 2015

I will try to keep my What I Learned in 2015 post fairly short and sweet as I feel that my last few posts have been pretty reflection-y and I’m ready to get on with the new content and year, already! But, being the natural processor that I am, when I saw emily p. freeman’s link up, I couldn’t resist the temptation to write my own. Here’s my last What I Learned post.

What I Learned in 2015

  1. I learned that real estate debt is good debt. This seems so obvious now, but I’m typically all caution before risk to the point that I may never take a good risk. The purchase of our first home in May of 2015 has finally found me at the point where I’ve never been more certain of a decision (and the need for an emergency fund). Paying the same amount or more in rent was simply no longer making sense. However, if you are in a rental, read this post I wrote on making your rental home as there’s a season for everything.what I learned in 2015, What I learned in 2015, from a Woodey Allen quote (bleh!) to some bloggers you should follow to why we take mini-trips.| naturallyjmharris.com
  2. I learned that mini-trips are always worth it. Which is why we have another booked for the end of January! We’re willing to make choices throughout the year to make it possible, such as more ( most!) dinners at home, little money spent on “entertainment,” fewer frivolous purchases, etc. It’s just what works for us and what we look back on as one of the year’s highlights.What I learned in 2015, from a Woodey Allen quote (bleh!) to some bloggers you should follow to why we take mini-trips.
  3.  I learned that my decor style has shifted as I have matured. I have shocked myself by learning that I am much more of a modernist at heart than I ever would have predicted. Just one look at my Pinterest boards will reveal a love affair with all things clean lines, golden birch, and mid-century mixed with California eclectic. But just the other day one of my best friends was in our house for the first time and said that it looked “so much more like me” than our other places. Now if I could just grow into the minimalist side a little more, my husband would be thrilled.
  4. I learned that “80% of life is showing up,” though I hate to quote Woodey Allen. The statement seems quite true in more ways than one. This year I’ve applied a lot of the creative discipline teachings that I learned through college to real life, and it’s not really about much more than showing up every day. Again, and again. (Dare I say, the same principle seems to apply to relationships?)
  5. I learned that it’s worth cultivating what I love. This fall, I decided to bake & sell homemade pumpkin breads as a side outlet and way to support my little family. It was perhaps the first time I’ve taken a creative idea for income and put it into action. Though it was of course a small effort, it gives me confidence in myself & my ideas moving forward.

What I learned in 2015, from a Woodey Allen quote (bleh!) to some bloggers you should follow to why we take mini-trips. 6. I learned that online creative entrepreneurs online lend so much inspiration! I’ve been closely following the blogs & outlets  of a handful, including Natalie at Natalie Creates & Elise from Enjoy It. Essentially, I want to be them when I grow up. The end. Also, comment below with YOUR favorite online gal!


Happy New Year, friends. I’ll be back soon with some thoughts + practical tips on how to set goals for the year! In the meantime, remember to follow me on Instagram if you aren’t already for a 12 days of Christmas post series.

12 Days of Christmas & How they Set You Free

12 days of Christmas & how they set you free | naturallyjmharris.comPhoto credit to the amazing Mari Feitosa (website & facebook)

Merry Christmas!

Is it really Christmas Eve Eve?  Despite the abnormally warm weather, we’ve been cozy-ing up and are so ready for our first Christmas in our new home. I feel that I have let so much go this year and it has been truly freeing. We’ve made space for the activities we wanted to do (homemade gifts, driving to look at Christmas lights, Christmas movies, tree cutting & decorating) & let go others that we don’t have the time or energy for.

Whenever Christmas begins to burden, its a sign that I’ve taken on something of the world, and not of Christ. -Ann Voskamp

I wanted to fill you in on one of the reasons why I’ve not been rushing to fit in everything Christmas-ey – the 12 Days of Christmas.  The 12 Days of Christmas are, I feel, a somewhat little-known event on the church calendar. Everyone has heard of Advent & maybe even Epiphany, but there seems to be plenty of confusion about what the 12 days of Christmas are and when they occur. However, whether or not you follow the church calendar, I believe observing them can be both freeing and something to treasure with your family or in your heart.

Simply put – the 12 days of Christmas (which begin on Christmas and end 12 days later, this year Jan 5) are space to reflect on the reality of the incarnation in our lives – Christ made flesh and born among us. Each day has an activity/ tradition associated with it, which you can read more about here if you’re interested. I don’t do those activities, but I do take the opportunity to treasure Christmas in my heart a little longer.  Advent is the expectation of the coming King, then we have the 12 days of Christmas, & then Epiphany, which sends us out into the world to live out the mystery of the incarnation in our daily lives.

SO. What does this mean for me?

[tweetthis]It means observing the ways the fullness of Christ seeps into every corner of our everyday lives.[/tweetthis]

It means our Christmas tree isn’t coming down the day after Christmas. It means carving out space for reflection. It means observing the ways the fullness of Christ seeps into every corner of our everyday lives. It even means continuing with Christmas celebrations, like cookie baking and party hosting, knowing that those activities can shift my heart’s focus to the importance of this time of year & the value of those around me. It means if you were to come to my house, I’d have my Christmas lights plugged in and some food or wine for us to share because Christ invites us to commune with him as we do the ordinary.

For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. -John 1:16

So for these last two days of Christmas, I want you to step back & give yourself grace for what has been left undone, and know that come Christmas, there are still 12 more days. Merry Christmas to you & yours!

the 12 days of christmas & how they set you free | naturallyjmharris.com

 

 

Health Issues: One Year Later

The One Where I Finally Open Up & Reflect

The point of this post isn’t to rehash the details of my unexpected health issues, however, it is to serve as a reflection on the past year (as it has now been just over a year) and what I have gained through this experience. If you have health issues or any other large struggle, I highly encourage you to do the same measure – and share it!

I’ve made reference here and there to health issues I’ve had the past year, but I’ve never addressed the subject in a post of its own. I’d rather not use this particular post to go into detail, but the short of the matter is that an unexpected environmental factor (from our last rental) caused my body to function improperly in several ways. When I started to experience symptoms of debilitating fatigue, muscle weakness, dizziness, and so forth, I (and my doctor) assumed mono. Tests and more tests and specialized doctor visits revealed no conclusive answer, and at that point (months later), I had to come to terms with the fact that what I was dealing with was no contracted virus and we were able to determine what had caused my sickness. I was finally treated properly 3-4 months after I first presented with symptoms, and it wasn’t until around 9 months (spring of the next year) that I felt my health was truly beginning to be regained.

a blogger shares about her health struggles & invisible illness & reflects over the year. | naturallyjmharris.com

I had my husband take a few pictures of me recently.  I wanted a reflection of where I’m at now, one year later, even though my struggle was not so physically obvious. When I look at that photo, I can see the differences: weight gained back, color on face, eyes without circles around them. However, unless you are a close friend, you would likely not be able to point out the differences.  That’s the thing with “invisible illness“-  it’s not always obvious to those around you. I had well-meaning people say,“well, you look good!” on days when I was literally at my worst.  

After we moved from our duplex (remember, environmental issue), I felt that the majority of the people around me assumed that I would quickly start to improve and feel like myself.  This was unfortunately not the case.  I think that there was simply misunderstanding about the nature of my illness or perhaps those who just didn’t know how to help.  However, I don’t blame anyone or hold bitterness. I just learned which people were safe to reach out to when I needed some support.

a blogger shares about her health struggles & invisible illness & reflects over the year. | naturallyjmharris.com

I learned more about myself in a year than I might have learned in 5: emotionally, mentally, physically, AND spiritually.  I had to quit a job I liked and for the first time in my life, I found myself without the title of “student” or “worker.” I felt naked. I had to come to terms with the fact that my achievement nature could literally not achieve. In the beginning, I was sleeping for 12 hours a day and feeling exhausted if I walked to the mailbox – and I didn’t even know why.

As time went on, I regained strength very gradually – bit by bit. This meant that I had really bad days and fairly normal days. I canceled plans all the time out of necessity to rest, and I laid on the couch and prayed that the Lord would get to the heart of my physical and spiritual sickness as it became clear that I had no peace not doing anything (or achieving for others). I faithfully kept up on doctor visits and did everything medically necessary, weary as though I was of it. I learned other things that were “off” with my health and gained answers to questions I’d had for years.

a blogger shares about her health struggles & invisible illness & reflects on her gains over the past year| naturallyjmharris.com

I began to heal. I grew in self-acceptance of myself and of my weakness.  I learned how to prioritize my day properly. I learned when to push myself and when to say no. And then come springtime, I realized that I was living FULL days again. I wasn’t making it through one or two items on my to-do list and then spending the rest of the day on the couch. I had energy and I was doing things normally!

And then this fall, those squash I’m holding in the photo above suddenly started to appear in my dad’s garden along with a decorative pumpkin alongside the porch- neither of which he planted. We finally realized that they were my decorative fall squash that I had brought along with me when we moved. I had set the pumpkin on the porch, forgotten about it, and then left it to rot. It grew on its own and became the most perfect pumpkin. The squash had been put into the compost after rotting, but somehow came back and produced a whole mess of little squash – all from the one I had dragged with me when I was sick and afraid and weak.

a blogger shares about her health struggles & invisible illness & reflects on her gains over the past year| naturallyjmharris.com

I don’t think that anything could have been more perfectly symbolic of my experience over the year: something that was dying and rotting came back to life and produced so much more fruit than was there before – and it wasn’t from a single bit of my own effort.

“He makes everything beautiful in its time.”

Did I picture this past year being the way it was? Never. Do I cherish the freedom and knowledge I have gained from a result of it?  Yes, and this year (and health struggles) are temporary and non-existent in eternity. Today, my health is not 100% restored (I know now that there were some prior issues that explained why my body reacted the way it did) but I know that the work has already been done by the One who came that He could make us whole. Good health or poor health – whichever it may be- does not serve as my identification as a person.


In the blog posts to come, I will open up more about my health and measures I take to care for it. I will share ways to care for yourself holistically, health issues or not, from practical tips to emotional care to recipes.

If you can relate to any of this post, please don’t be afraid to reach out (below) or privately email me (michaela@naturallyjmharris.com)!