it was strange waking up in the guest bedroom this morning, it didn't feel like home. it seemed quieter though, since it's not directly below my upstair neighbors' kitchen. maybe that's why i managed to sleep so late.

i was supposed to get an 11:00 phone call from a merrill lynch investment agent regarding an old retirement account i had kicking around (from my screen house days a decade ago, how time flies). she didn't call until almost 11:30, apologizing for a meeting that ran late. erika wanted to talk about portfolio diversification (who doesn't, amiright?), and wanted to alert me that my "asset allocation model" was veering towards highly aggressive growth (due to neglect) with over 80% invested in equity. she asked if i wanted to spread some of that wealth into fixed income (bonds mostly) which is a safer choice given the uncertain economic conditions. she also told me i could consolidate all my retirement accounts from my various past company affiliations and own personal investments, and that i could get in touch with her in the new year to do that if i wanted to.

all this money talk is ironic given that i'm probably at the poorest stage of my adult life. i went ahead and calculated out how much i made this fiscal year, partly to figure out my tax contribution, partly to see if i could qualify for lower health insurance premiums for next year. client E also got in touch with me and said they wanted to pay me before year's end. this was one of those rare times when i actually didn't want to get paid, because it'd push me into a higher tax bracket. they insisted for their own tax reasons; my best bet is still to quickly find a steady source of income early next year so i can stop juggling my sparse finances.

unlike yesterday when i was waiting for work notification, i intentionally didn't do any work today. i haven't biked since sunday night and took the opportunity to pick up my prescription refill at rite aid and bought some häagen-dazs on sale. normally i buy generic just to save money, but i don't skimp on my ice cream! it was snowing again, but not enough to stick. i got clumps of snow trapped in my eyelashes and even managed to snort a few swirling snowflakes (just say no to snow!).

at market basket i noticed a pretty teal single-speed parked outside. i didn't recognize the brand and didn't think to look at the front badge to find out. the owner forgot to remove the bike lights and the rear blinker was still flashing. at the supermarket i grabbed all the ingredients i needed to make my mexican chicken tortilla soup, a tried-and-true recipe that shows up during the colder months.

i went to the cafe in the late afternoon to drop off some quince jelly for my godmother. she liked it enough to call me a few weeks ago with compliments. since i have more than enough for myself, i decided to share some of my surplus. my mother asked if i ate today and i genuinely couldn't remember (i had 2 slices of pound cake and a glass of hot tea for lunch). i left before it got dark (around 4:00 this time of year), but put on my rear blinker anyway just for safety sake. with snowfall expecting to last until tomorrow morning with the possibility of a few inches of accumulation, i decided to put the bike away in the basement instead.

alex sent me a christmas card from japan; this after i read an article about how less and less people are sending out christmas cards in these days of online social networks. alex consistently mails out holiday greeting cards, even though i can't remember ever once sending him one. it's actually a pretty cool 3D card that snaps together through embedded magnets. the card forms a sumo stage, with two fighters and a referee, surrounded by an audience of unruly santa clauses. this would be the perfect card for a mantle - if i had a fireplace.

i was hungry enough that i decided to get an early start with my dinner preparations. all ingredients were the same as last time, except i used arborio rice instead of pearl couscous (i'm still not sure what hominy is and don't know if it'd taste as good). i boiled the chicken breasts first, just enough cooking to shred them with a pair of forks. i then cooked a chopped onion and some garlic, then poured in the 2 cans of chicken stock and a can of crushed tomatoes. it seemed like a lot of liquids and i was worried the final result would be too soupy.

once that liquid base had some time to simmer, i basically dumped in the rest of the ingredients: shredded chicken, frozen corn (2 cups), a can of black beans, some chopped chipotle peppers, some cilantro, and a cup of arborio rice. i went with arborio rice because it seemed the closest approximation to pearl couscous (at least in terms of shape).

arborio rice is used to make risotto, and the instructions on the box didn't say how long it'd take to cook the rice at medium heat. the soup recipe said 10 minutes of simmering, but that was for the original ingredient of hominy. i ended up simmering the soup for more than 30 minutes, just waiting for the rice to cook. the first 10 minutes nothing really happened, but after the 20 minute mark, the rice really expanded, and it went from soup to hearty gumbo. even after 30 minutes, there were still a few crunchy rice grains. i'm also glad i resisted the temptation to add another cup of rice back when everything was still liquid.

i couldn't wait to dig into the final result. the recipe calls for tortilla chips but i've never once eaten it with them (i think it's better to make my own than to buy them, which are saltier). the chipotle really gives the soup a fiery kick. i watched a few old episodes of newsradio on hulu.

i've got enough mexican chicken soup to last me to the end of the week. i think next time i'm going to try making an actual gumbo recipe, with sausages and okra.