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issue #167 - the flashback one
I’ve been experiencing a lot of deja vu from 2018 lately.
Parenting an incredibly willful toddler while navigating some major things at work? Check.
The Philadelphia Eagles giving me a heart attack every playoff game they play? Triple check, especially given that we won by the same score last weekend as we did 5 years ago.
Some things remain the same - my pre-game and game day superstitions, friendships, my firm belief that a certain planner will change my life or that buying a stack of books about an issue will immediately resolve it.
And some things are completely different.
There are new friendships, new roles my husband and I have taken in our careers and at home, a new member of our family, and a fairly new obsession with romance novels.
I have a greater sense of humility - in parenthood, in career, in friendships - than I had 5 years ago.
With that humility comes a sense of security and peace in not having it all figured out. Life will throw me more curveballs. I’ll manage to catch some, dodge others, and some will smack me right in the face.
I like how I look. More importantly, I like how I feel.
And 2018 Hitha would faint when she heard she finally did a huge project with Taco Bell, published another book (and be very smug that her 2020 presidential prediction came true), and would not at all be surprised that she has another son, and that she named him after a fictional Philly legend.
So while I feel like I’m re-living the 2018 postseason all over again (complete with the same Eagles shirts, sitting in my seat, and furiously praying to Ganesha), I’m grateful for all the experiences and changes of the last five years, and excited to see what the next 5 years have in store.
My only hope is that I can watch a future Super Bowl win for the Birds in person. But in the meantime, I’m hope to have a reason to re-create my best cheeseboard ever:
What I Read This Week
Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews - I’m slowly making my way through their backlist after devouring the Hidden Legacy series last year. Something to know about Andrews’ books is the first is a fairly slow burn, but it picks up and melds magic and action and romance beautifully, and it’s worth the slower start. This series of novellas is the perfect read after a lengthy fantasy series.
What Everyone Else Read This Week
Off the Map by Trish Doller (out 3/7/2023) - Open door romance between two strangers - Carla and Eamon - traveling to a wedding in Ireland who are instantly attracted to each other. This is an adventure romance with evocative descriptions that will make you want to plan a trip to Ireland and/or the National Parks immediately. Keep your Kleenex handy - the back end involves Carla dealing with her dad’s dementia. Overall, a sexy, beautiful sweep of emotions in a tight 272 pages.
Shibani reads over 100 books per year. You can find her book reviews here!
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng- I will admit I haven't finished this book but it is really engrossing and thought provoking. Ng tackles a nationalistic movement that feels all too real in today's climate, where fear leads to bigotry, racism and hatred all interwoven in a story about a mother's love and a son's search for her. Really a must read!
Top #5SmartReads Of The Week
Color Astrology: Zodiac-Inspired Paint Palettes For Every Sign (Sherwin Williams)
Unguilty Pleasures: My Year of Reading Romance Novels (Literary Hub)
Don’t Teach Your Kids To Fear The World (The Atlantic)
The rest of the week’s reads + last week’s (and conversations!) are below:
Your Questions, Answered
I need a need a new caffeinated beverage to get me through the winter slump but not coffee.
I love a cup of chai! If I’m up for preparing it traditionally, I use Kolkata Chai Co’s Masala and prepare it over the stove and all that.
If I don’t have as much time of patience, I’ll use Anjali’s Cup Chai Masala (love the extra ginger version) and steep it quickly with a PG Tips bag and add milk and sugar after a couple of minutes.
Or I would give Nancy carte blanche to book me a surprise trip - I trust her completely!
Glenmere Mansion - a good girls weekend spot or more a romantic getaway?
Glenmere is romantic getaway for sure- it’s like stepping into an episode of Bridgerton minus the meddling mamas.
I think the The Mayflower caters to girls weekends just as well as romantic getaways! The North Fork of Long Island is super charming, as are so many of the Hudson Valley towns. Buttermilk Falls Inn is a really cute inn with amazing spa and is close to New Paltz, one of my favorite towns in the Hudson Valley.
What was the Murderers casting announcement Tik Tok??
Jesse Williams is joining Meryl Streep and Paul Rudd!
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Working mom of 5 month old. How do you balance life? Mommy guilt, work guilt, etc.
Throw the whole notion of balance out of the window. It is impossible to achieve without kids, even more so with them.
5 months is still so young and your child is changing every day, so be really kind with yourself during this phase.
On the guilt side of things, what helped me was to decide what kind of day today would be - a work focused day, a parenting focused day, etc. Once you decide what kind of day it’s going to be, set 3 key priorities/tasks that are you must-dos that day. This approach helped me push through the balance fallacy and any feelings of guilt and helped me find some peace in the chaos.
Cameron is a creator with an 18 month old and has been beautifully open about the journey of early motherhood and juggling all the things. I highly recommend her podcast Freckled Foodie & Friends Podcast and check out her archive for episodes on this exact topic.
More than anything, I want you to know that you are doing an incredible job. I’m really proud of you.
Good starter on the history/culture of hair oiling? (as it becomes “trendy”)
I really appreciate you asking this! Here are a few South Asian creators and brands that have some great Reels about champi (hair oiling + scalp massage):
What is the best thing about raising two boys?
For me, it’s rejecting some of the sexist norms (especially around shows, books, toys or activities) and introducing my kids to the things I enjoyed as a kid and seeing how they enjoy them.
They play with cars as well as ponies, build with Legos and love crafting (I’m teaching Rho needlepoint and can’t wait to teach him crochet), and they read and watch shows about strong girls as much as they do about kind boys.
We introduce them to a variety of these things and let them take the lead from there. And it’s been really fun to see what they gravitate towards!
If you had to choose one - LOTR or The Hobbit?
They’re both incredible- I can’t choose one over the other, but I Definitely am in LOTR vibe in December (watching all the films was a holiday tradition Sri and my family enjoyed long before we ever met), and we watch the first two Hobbit films (and the beginning of the third) during the January and February gloom.
What audiobook will be enjoyable? Need things to get through February.
Here are my favorite audiobooks that I re-listen to.
And if I may recommend an audiobook app, I love libro.fm, which supports independent bookstores (you can select your favorite indie to credit your book purchases to!). Use code hitha to get 2 free books when you start a subscription!
Did you color your hair during pregnancy? Can you remind me about your chic gray hair journey?
Here’s an interview I did with Health about my gray hair journey, and some additional details below:
I stopped coloring my hair in 2019 (the last time was when I was pregnant with Rhaki, halfway through my second trimester) and I remembered sitting in the chair dreading that I would have to come back in 4 weeks. I decided not to, and used the pregnancy and nursing as an excuse. A few months after Rhaki was born, I was waiting for my husband for a date night. I took this selfie and found myself really liking the little silver roots coming in.
That night, I went on a google binge to research gray highlights on dark hair.
I found this Allure article on that exact topic, and Marcy was the colorist who highlighted the writer’s hair. I literally slid into her DMs and asked if we could do something similar. I went in for a consult and we did a test to see how light she could get my hair, and we did charcoal highlights that really helped smooth out the transition until my hair fully grew out.
Now, it’s all my hair and I LOVE IT. I’ve never once loved my hair as a kid, but this feels so very me and I’m glad my wise cousin rocked it with confidence - she inspires me in every way, and hair is just one example.
Would you ever move out of the city?
For the right opportunity in my or my husband’s career or if we felt our kids needed something different, sure!
We feel incredibly fulfilled with our lives in the city right now. We love our neighborhood, have really amazing friend groups here, the boys love their school, and we soak in all the shows and museums and the experiences of the city on the weekends.
It’s home. And I feel incredibly lucky and aware of the privilege I have to live this life.
I want to get into crochet. What’s the best way to learn? Youtube?
I was very lucky to have my aunt re-teach me during one of her visits a few years back, but YouTube is great!
Also don’t be afraid to go into your local indie craft store. The folks who work there are super warm and welcoming and are happy to help- just call ahead to make an appointment. If you’re in NYC, Knitty City and Annie and Co are my go-to spots.
Baby sleep advice! Not actual tips but how to get through it as a first time mom.
Get a solid sleep mask (I like one that smooshes my eyes closed, like this one from Lunya).
Pick a specific sleep meditation (I like Ease Your Mind + Wind Down and Whole Body Rejuvenation + Relaxation from the Superhuman app, or the Brown Noise skill on Alexa) and play it every time before you get some shut eye so your brain understands that when this sound is played, it’s time for sleep. This helps me sleep when I’m traveling!
I find I sleep better in a colder room. While I haven’t splurged on a ChillyPad yet, I have a cooling blanket under my top sheet that legit helps me feel cool (I also sleep very hot and had awful night sweats postpartum).
“Receiving feedback is an opportunity to grow and develop - not the sign of a problem.”
We cannot control someone’s delivery of a message, but we can learn from the helpful advice they’re giving. When I am given feedback, I take copious notes on the tactical and specific things in that feedback, and I will type it up and put it in one of those voice generators online with a funny voice (usually Donald Duck).
Hearing the specifics in a different (and funny) delivery helps me take out the sting and act on that specific advice.
In Brave Not Perfect, Reshma outlines how to ask for feedback and be proactive about it to get the practice on how to filter the helpful from the not so helpful feedback, and it’s something I learned early in my career at Cisco that I continue to use today.
I’m sure you’ve answer this, but where do I start if I’ve never seen a Bollywood film before?
Kabhi Khushi Khabi Gham is a classic and the most memed so it’s the perfect one to start with.
Jodhaa Akbar for historical piece with the most stunning costumes.
Dostana, Dil Chahta Hai, Dil Bole Hadippa, and 3 Idiots are some of my favorites.
The Zoya Factor is very cheesy but I liked it!
Fly Eagles Fly!