Today was a great day. Today, I did things that I loved doing.

I skyped with my family, dressed myself in Target sweatpants and a Lululemon top, read articles on the NY Times website to my heart's desire, learned new things online, brewed a fresh cup of coffee, heard exciting news from friends, prepared chicken tortilla soup from scratch, made pressed juice for breakfast, dreamed about the furniture (a blue velvet sofa! a rosewood dresser!) for our future apartment and scouted deals on Craigslist, studied new Chinese words and brushed up on my quantitative skills, and snuggled up in our couch/bed to catch up on Homeland and The Good Wife – all things that make me happy.

I'll be honest – I'm not where I thought I'd be at 26 as I imagined it would be like back in high school. But also, I'm not where I thought I'd be. For all my planning, I never could have predicted that I'd be in China of all places, or married, or living more of a freelance adventure than a climb up the career ladder. Somehow, I thought I could only be happy while on a tropical vacation or stressing out over an ambiguous project needing results fast (because weirdly, I thrive on that, too). When I step away from my day's activities as things to be checked off of my Todoist and view them more like things that I enjoy doing, I'm so much happier.

I want to stop apologizing for not having enough time, for not doing it all. I need to stop apologizing for recognizing the resource constraints that we all face. I'm not sorry that sometimes my priorities change and that instead of juggling yet another to-do, I choose to drop one, sometimes temporarily, sometimes forever. More fun means less list. When Dave gets home and asks me how my day went, I want to stop responding with, "Ugh, I haven't finished all of my to-dos yet." More often, I want to respond: Today was a great day. I did things that I love doing. And I'll be happier for it.

Layered Chicken Tortilla Soup

If you've ever had the chicken tortilla soup at Cafe Rio, you'll understand the magic of the layering. This is my take on the Cafe Rio fave...
This soup makes for an easy weekday meal, but it's exciting enough to make for friends on the weekend. I would include a picture, but the one I have doesn't do it justice.

You'll need:

  • about 1 lb or three chicken breasts 
  • 1 packet of taco or burrito seasoning
  • half a lime
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 small, green bell pepper
  • 5 cups of chicken broth (I used 5 of the packets from Trader Joe's mixed with hot water)
  • 1 jar of salsa
  • a handful of cilantro
  • 1/2 - 1 cup of cheddar cheese (I used white cheddar), shredded
  • a handful of tortilla chips or toasted corn tortillas
  • a couple flour tortillas
RINSE and pat dry the chicken. You can easily double the chicken if you want extra for tacos or chicken quesadillas later in the week. I used a leftover packet of burrito seasoning, but I think a full packet would be sufficient for 2 lbs. Squeeze the juice of half a lime on the chicken and sprinkle on both sides with the seasoning.
MARINATE the chicken for about an hour then place in a slow cooker with a cup of broth on high for 2-3 hours or until the broth has thickened into a sauce. Use two forks to shred the chicken.
ABOUT half an hour or less before you want to eat, dice the onion and pepper and saute in a tablespoon of oil until softened. Use a soup pot to saute, then add the remaining cups of broth and bring to a boil.
PORTION the chicken into soup bowls. You'll have 4-5 servings. To each bowl, add a ladle or two of the onion, pepper and broth mixture. Add a few tablespoons of salsa, a sprinkle of cilantro (no need to chop), and a handful of cheese. Garnish with a few tortilla chips. I used guacamole flavored chips, and they were delicious. You could easily add more toppings – sliced avocado, maybe? Heat a couple of tortillas in the oven or microwave as a side. Enjoy!