Now that I work normal hours and with both of my boys living at home again, I find myself taking a little bit more pleasure in the process of making meals. I’m still not inclined to spend more than an hour on any meal we eat, but I do put more thought into what I’m preparing and I take more pleasure from the effort that goes into the food I serve.

Lately I’ve been mixing up our weekly menu with recipes from Pinterest. I think we all have that “someday I’ll make this” board, so why not? Last week I decided to go with Mexican Poblano Chicken Chowder from Ciao Chow Bambina. If you are not already following her on Pinterest you should be – her page is mouth-watering. I’m not going to post the recipe here, I made so few alterations to the original recipe that I’m only going to mention the changes.

The only ingredient required that isn’t normally found in my house were the Poblano peppers. I’m fortunate in that I live in a community with a large population of seasonal workers from other countries. This means I’ve got a wide array of ethnic foods to choose from in my local grocery store. Pobalano peppers, or at least the ones we had, taste almost the same as green peppers. Don’t be fooled though, you may not taste much heat but it’s there. I got some of the juice on the back of one of my fingers and it burned for a while.

The original recipe also calls for grilled corn on the cob. Obviously corn on the cob isn’t in season in December, and after years of eating the exceptional varieties of sweet corn my parents grow in their garden I’m not willing to buy corn on the cob in any season. I also don’t have an indoor grill or the inclination to stand outside at the barbecue during these short cold days. That said, I’m sure there was a certain amount of flavor missing from my dish with its ungrilled frozen corn (corn my mother froze from her garden) and I wonder if it could be replicated by toasting the kernels in a non-stick frying pan?

The absolute best part of this recipe is that the chicken is cooked separately from the vegetables. So when I seasoned my thawed chicken breasts, I also cubed and seasoned a half-block of tofu. I baked the protein in the oven until the chicken was cooked through and the tofu had some nicely toasted edges. I omitted the bacon completely and just before adding the protein to the dish, I separated out enough of the chowder mix for myself into it’s own pot and then completed both as the recipe indicates.

Mexican Poblano Chicken Chowder

So go check out the recipe for Mexican Poblano Chicken Chowder, you’ll love the vegetables and spicy creamy broth whether you choose to have it with chicken or tofu.

Ennui – home care specialists

Ennui, winter blues, call it what you will but I seem to be suffering from it. This past week brought a return to regular weekday schedules and frigid temperatures. Somewhere in the midst of it, I lost my get-up-and-go, and I didn’t have a whole lot of it to begin with.

Perhaps it was the moment of clarity that let me put a name and face to my anger in New Year, New Mirror. Perhaps it was the pressure of living with too many extroverts stressing my introverted psyche. Perhaps it was simply my intolerance for cold. Maybe it was just the fact that I have the bench seat of a 20yr old F150 sitting in my dining room. Maybe I was just past due for my B12 injection.

For whatever reason, I spent most of my non-working hours this past week huddled in my bed reading.

Which leaves me with only 20 days left in the month to meet my goal of having a clean house, and in case you missed it, I have the bench seat of a 20yr old F150 sitting in my dining room. It’s in front of the patio door and the dogs enjoy their ‘sofa’ when the sun is shining through.

Somehow in the midst of my ennui, I managed to clean my upper cabinets. Why anyone installing a brand new kitchen would choose open shelving is beyond me. Do you have any idea what happens to stuff that’s on those shelves? The grease and dust film was ridiculous.

I cleaned my oven. My last stove was over 50 years old. Standing pilot lights old. My new stove has all the features. A timer, no standing pilots and self-clean. It’s also only six years old and the bottom of the oven is rotting out. How does that even happen?

I suspect the next few weeks will be challenging, with me trying to declutter at the same time as my oldest is moving his belongings home. But if there’s one thing life has taught me it’s that this too shall pass. Hopefully that bench seat will find its way out of my dining room and into his truck too.

Looking Ridiculous Shouldn’t Matter – home care specialists

This past weekend we had some nice weather so I spent some quality time with my leaf blower/sucker. As if vacuuming dog hair every day isn’t enough, I spent my Saturday vacuuming leaves. The chore didn’t go smoothly and at times I wondered if the neighbors were having a good chuckle over me looking ridiculous – again. I wanted to give up, but I kept the image of my dad methodically working his way through big jobs in my head and stuck with it.

When the leaves first came down they were too wet to blow or suck up, but I managed to get the bulk of them into a pile before I gave up. Then it snowed – more than once. Now I had a nice pile of wet, icy leaves to deal with. The leaves were still leathery and kept clogging up my Toro. I had to repeatedly stick my arm up the thing to pull clumps of leaves apart. Just as often I had to pull the nozzle off and clear out jammed sticks and leaf stems.

I’m probably the clumsiest person alive. The bag that the shredded leaves go into is the size of a body pillow and the leaf blower itself comes up to my waist. None of it is light and every time I needed to dump the bag crumbled leaves would billow up around me. Add to that an electrical cord to trip over, which I did several times, along with the repeated clearing of clogs and I’m sure me doing the leaves looked like a skit from a comedy show. Slapstick at it’s finest.

There have been many times in life that I’ve allowed the fear of looking ridiculous to stop me. As a child in swimming lessons, I let it stop me from learning how to swim. As a teen and young adult, the fear of looking foolish stopped me from learning how to dance. As a single mom with a house and yard to look after, I don’t have the luxury of giving up. I can’t walk away from things that are new just because I’m worried about looking ridiculous while I figure out how to do them and I don’t want to walk away from these challenges either.

Nobody is born naturally capable. Everyone starts somewhere – even the guys. The first time I changed the oil on my car by myself I read the Haynes manual and Googled the process. I jacked up the car once, realized it would work better if I jacked it up from the other side so I let it down and jacked it up again. Once I was under there I had the wrong size socket. I crawled back out and took the entire set back under with me. I couldn’t get the wrench to work so I could take off the old filter. I crawled back out again and found a piece of rubberized shelf liner to give the wrench more grip. I think it took me two hours to change the oil that first time.

I can only imagine what the neighbors were thinking if they watched me. Maybe the even had a good chuckle over my incompetence. Did my face burn thinking about them laughing over how silly I looked? You bet it did. But three months later when it was time to change the oil again I knew exactly what to do, even if I did still need to take the entire set of sockets under with me. That time and for all the times after, it only took me a half hour to change the oil and anyone watching me wouldn’t have a single thing to laugh about. It’s not as if they could see that at least two-thirds of the time I would drop the drain plug in the pan for collecting the old oil and have to fish it out.

Every time I take on something new that I’ve never done before I ask myself what’s the worst thing that could happen. For instance the tub faucet I still can’t get the old cartridge out of. What’s the worst thing that could have happened when I tried to change it? Maybe I could have broken the faucet, making it completely unusable. Maybe it would have spewed water and I would have had to keep the water to the house shut off. So then I would have gone and bought a new faucet and called either my ex or my dad to come and put it in. Maybe that option isn’t open to you, but there’s always an option.

Plan for your worst case scenario and then get started. Look silly, worry that the neighbors are laughing, make mistakes and through it all I promise you’ll learn and you’ll gain something really important. Confidence and the special pride that comes from being capable. How about you – have you ever let the fear of looking silly stop you from doing something?