And when they met….it was Murdah….

Only kids who grew up in the 80s with no outside hobbies will know that reference. It’s the opening line from Hart to Hart, said by the butler with a very strong New York City accent. Here’s the IMDB blurb:

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Self-made millionaire Jonathan and freelance writer Jennifer are the Harts – a globetrotting married couple with a talent for finding mysteries wherever they go. And even when they’re uncovering thefts, espionage and assorted skullduggery, they still find time for romance.

I mean what’s there not to like? Thefts, espionage, skullduggery (really?), and romance!  Welcome to the 80s. Pretend you’re a young Indian gal in Harrisburg, PA with a really bad haircut watching upstairs in her parent’s bedroom. Or pretend you’re a not-so-young Indian gal in Yardley, PA watching reruns on the Hallmark Network on her phone so no one sees – either way – set the scene.

Side note – I was also completely unaware of the whole Robert Wagner/Natalie Wood thing. Which takes the whole murder thing in another direction.

Anyway I have always enjoyed a murder mystery. In all honesty there doesn’t even need to be a mystery. I’ve just always enjoyed….murder. Let that sink in. I did start out lightheartedly. Hart to Hart. Remington Steele. Murder, she Wrote. But it went downhill fast. I blame Law and Order. I just love a gruesome tale.

Turns out, I’m not the only one. Michelle McNamara was obsessed with The Golden State Killer case for years. The notorious unsolved crime of someone who had committed upward of 50 sexual assaults and at least 10 murders in California in the 1970s and 1980s, was left untouched until her book (published posthumously), I’ll be Gone in the Dark, came out.

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The book and her research fueled blogs, podcasts, etc. and relaunched the search. The killer was captured within a year using a DNA website. I read the book. Listened to the podcasts. Read all the blogs. I couldn’t get enough. And neither could a million other people. Just sayin’, I’m not the only weirdo.

Now here’s where my interest takes a turn…so maybe I am a weirdo.

I don’t remember if I’ve shared this with you before. If I’ve already talked about my massive crush on Frances Glessner Lee, I’m sorry to repeat myself. But she is so freaking cool. Or was so freaking cool. She grew up in the 30’s and 40’s in a wealthy family. Her passion was police work from an early age, a profession that was considered both beneath her class and out of her league as a woman. She tried to join the police force, but her family objected. Instead she started spending time volunteering in police stations. She noticed that during murder investigations, there was no way to re-create the crime scene. Because most of her leisure time was spent on sewing, painting, etc., she started recreating crime scenes using dollhouse miniatures. Genius. And weird. And useful. All things I love in a person.

Long morbid story short, she became the “mother of forensic science”, eventually joining the police force and also becoming the first female police captain in the country. The techniques she developed helped revolutionize the way police reports were created. She was bad-ass.

You’re probably wondering how I found out about her? You’re not? I’ll tell you anyway. I decided last year that in the near future, say 10 or 15 years from now, I’m going to start working on a dollhouse. Obviously I plan to get creepier with age. As I was researching dollhouses and the weirdos who work on them, I found a podcast called,”Murder is Her Hobby”. It had me at hello. It might as well have been called,”Listen to this Neha, you’ll love it”.

I think you’ll love it too. What’s not to love about a crocheted crime scene?

Another podcast that speaks my name is, My Favorite Murder. 

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Until some years ago I had no people named April in my life. Now I have two. The first one is like family and lives a few houses down. She introduced me to the second one during a girl’s weekend. The second one introduced me to this podcast – and that’s when I knew I’d found a friend for life. That and her love for tequila.

Tonight, both my Aprils and I are heading into Philadelphia (which is sometimes called Killadelphia by smart alecks but really fits with everything we’re talking about here, don’t you think?).

We are going to see that podcast, My Favorite Murder, live! In person. Geeky and edgy all at the same time.

A night of murdah…what could be better? Don’t answer that.

Does it burn?

I like skincare products the way people like their pets. I’m OBSESSED. And I like them all. I don’t discriminate. Drug store cheapie? Sounds good to me. Expensive beauty product of the moment? Come to mama. I’ll bring them all home. Nurture and love them.

Face masks are all the rage… but I’ve been doing masks since 8th grade. When I discovered that a good layer of Calamine lotion dries on your face and can be lifted off like a mask. I don’t remember what led me to that discovery. Probably a slow tv night.

I get facials at least once a month – which sounds high maintenance but I balance it out by sometimes buying clothes at Costco (shhhhhhhh).

As I’ve written before in my other post (Product Ho), I have no loyalty to products or places of beauty. I’ll go anywhere. And I’ll drop a facialist (that’s a word right? Spellcheck is saying no, but it’s a word) quickly if she tells me I have to be more delicate with my skin. Delicate?? Nope. Sorry. My favorite question when buying most face products is,” does it burn?”.

Most people ask that to confirm that it won’t burn. I am asking with gleeful excitement hoping a layer of skin comes off with use.

That said – none of the stuff I’m using right now is that harsh. The retinol wipes are a bit…chemically… but in a good way.

Here’s what my nighttime/daytime routine looks like. This is what I’m doing while you’re at the gym, or cleaning your homes, or making the world better…

This stuff is awesome! I told you I have to wear make-up now to save my marriage right? So making sure every bit of my Tammy Faye Bakker mascara comes off before I go to bed is essential. This stuff looks and feels like Vaseline going on – but once it touches water it completely changes and dissolves. Taking Tammy right down the drain where she belongs. RIP.

I’ve tried every face scrub on the planet. Kate Somerville makes a $69 one that does the exact same thing this does. Trust me. I started using this the same time I experimented with the Calamine lotion face masks. It’s harsh. It’s drying. Put your big girl pants on and use it.

Kiehl’s has been my moisturizer since my baby girl was born. We lived on the Upper East Side in New York City, home of their original store. I was having a tough time postpartum and needed a pick-me-up. My husband surprised me with a giant bottle of their ultra moisturizer. It’s been what I’ve used every night ever since. I know it’s a bit too oily for some folks – and it does go on like a brick house, but I love it.

Cut to this year – coming back from a work trip with some co-workers and wandering the airport (Dublin airport? Delhi airport?), we found this. It’s like a little bottle of sunshine. For those days when I’m not trying to save my marriage and I don’t wear make-up, I wear this.

I don’t know if I believe in eye cream. But of course I use it every night because of 2 reasons, 1) I’m a slave to marketing and 2) I will fold like a cheap suit when a salesperson tells me a product is great. Why wouldn’t I trust a perfect stranger whose job is to gain commission off what she sells me? Duh. It’s a no-brainer.

Ohhhhh these burn. They burn so good. Ignore your eyes watering. It’ll be fine.

I snuck this in even though it’s not the same genre as the other products because it’s so good! It basically shellacs my face after I put my gobs of make-up on. It’s like laminating yourself for the day. In the words of Ina Garten, “how bad could that be?”.

Thanks for letting me share. What are you using? I need to know. I need to judge. Xoxo

Post Pope Pfunk

I’m blue. The man in white is heading home. I’m not Catholic, or really all that religious. I used to say that I was “spiritual” which made me feel like I wasn’t dead inside because I didn’t believe in a Jesus or Allah or Krishna or L. Ron Hubbard. But now I’m ok with that. I believe in people. Collectively.

But that aside, I cannot believe the spirit of joy and love that I’ve felt from this man, head of one the wealthiest organizations in the world, through the TV! There’s just something about his face. His eyes and smile aren’t big and animated like the other faces we are used to seeing on display.

I swear I can feel his kindness and warmth. I’ve loved learning about his childhood, about his tendencies toward the poor and sick. I don’t agree with all his ideas, but I agree with his delivery. He condemns no one. There is no hell and fury. There is only acceptance and open arms. Imagine disagreeing with someone without hating them? What a novel concept.

Not surprisingly, I want to know more. I heard he had back problems, how did he handle this marathon visit to North America? Does he nap? Does he ever get some privacy? When does he eat? What does he eat? When he was in Philly did someone shove a cheese steak in his hand? Why weren’t there pictures of him having a slice of NYC pizza?

I liked turning on the news and not seeing Trump. I liked seeing Pope Francis in Madison Square Garden and millions of people trying to see him. I mean he doesn’t even have an Instagram! His followers are live.

I’m not saying he’s perfect. When I heard he gives sleeping bags to the homeless outside of The Vatican I thought, “gee, that’s nice but couldn’t a small portion of your institution’s wealth take care of all the poverty in Italy?”.

But I don’t care. I like him. A lot. I like the way he made me feel the last few days. I like that all the newscasters had to fill time with positive things.

And now it’s over. Trump and Putin are on 60 Minutes. I feel like people started yelling as soon as he left the country. It seems very ungodly.

The Stuff That Sticks

Like millions of other people, I was working and living in New York City on September 11, 2001. Everyone has a 9/11 story. Riding into work this morning, my train car was full of people talking about that day. Like a train full of veterans that lived to tell about it. Many of them had lost co-workers or family, but today, they talked about the little things. The weather that morning. People helping each other. The police walking around Penn Station with their fire arms out and on the ready.

Their conversation reminded me of the days and months and years following the sudden death of my mother-in-law. My husband, his sister and I would talk through every moment that led up to her passing over and over again. We’d be eating together, driving together, you name it – and all of a sudden one of us would start talking about how all the events unfolded. It was a devastating loss but talking about it, somehow dissecting it with each other was good for us. From the outside it must have sounded depressing and morbid, or like we were adding salt to the wound. But really it helped the healing. And it felt so nice to do it with people who wouldn’t hurry you through thinking about that day into the,” she’s in a better place” or “you’ll be ok soon”. Mourning slowly and long is ok. Mourning in bits and pieces is ok.

9/11 and the weeks that followed are both a blur and extremely clear in my head. Here’s what goes through my head today about that day:

  • I walked into the building at work not having watched the news. My boss, now one of my best friends, was coming in too. She said,” Did you hear what happened?” We went upstairs, grabbed another co-worker, and went to a company coffee shop – called Java City I think. They had two TVs broadcasting live. A tower on fire. News channels hadn’t expected to show people jumping out of windows so we saw everything. All three of us were crying. I think everyone in that shop was crying.
  • Not sure how/when we came back down to our floor, or if the other tower had been hit at that point. TVs were brought into a small conference room on our floor and people were either frantically calling home or watching the footage.
  • Here’s a totally wacky thing. There is a comedian named Jason Mantzoukas who’s quite famous now. But on that day, he worked across from our floor and did presentation building. He was the funny dude who would help put together our agenda packets, etc. He’s the one that helped bring the TV into the conference room, and I remember spending part of that horrible day with him. When I see him on Parks and Recreation or in the movies – all I can think of, is him sitting with us and crying.
  • My husband stayed behind at work (a choice he regrets now) and I walked home alone, with a hundred other people. We were like zombies shuffling out of buildings and onto the streets.
  • The next day was surreal. It was the most surreal day I have ever been through. No planes. No cars. No buses. All the stores were closed. The streets were empty uptown. Downtown was still a war zone. There was almost no one outside.
  • Everyone that didn’t lose someone in the city was huddled around a TV watching the coverage. President Bush came on and threatened retaliation. It was exactly what we needed to hear.
  • One of the most miraculous things was that my daughter was only 3. Completely, happily, oblivious to all the chaos and manic fear. I have never been so thankful for bedtime routines and snack time.
  • One of our events a few months later was at a production of The Producers, which had opened that April in NYC. It was one of the first nights after 9/11 that I remember being in a big room full of people that were laughing and joyous.

So ofcourse I’ll “Never Forget” the loss. But I remember so many other things too.

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Best Decision Ever.

Ummm…can we just skip over my explanation of not writing during the last 15 days? Ok. Thanks. More importantly – I couldn’t wait to write this post. 

We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout. Really we did. Swear on June and Johnny we did.  And when we made that decision it was filled with worry and anxiety. Are we doing the right thing? Yes. Are we too young? Yes. Will we make it? I sure hope so. But once we were married and living our little life in NYC – all that worry went away. We had a great first year of marriage. Lots of traveling for work and for pleasure. Lots of painting the town red. Not a care in the world. If we wanted to eat out at 2 AM, we could. If we wanted to leave at a moment’s notice to hop a plane to a tropical island, we could. But in reality we never did. We were pretty tame. But we were happy.

Right after the holidays we decided that this would be the year we had a baby. Unlike the wedding/marriage/decision to stay together forever thing- this was an easy one. I loved kids. He…didn’t hate kids. It was perfect. We talked it through. We made a 6 month plan. We’d get our finances locked down. We’d figure out if we could stay in the apartment. We’d figure out if we needed to buy a car. We’d take part of the year to really sort it out. But we forgot something important.

I am a fertile myrtle.  My body was made for baby bearing, and I’m not just talking about my hips. Just looking at babies could get me pregnant. And indeed, just thinking of having a baby was all it took. Well, not ALL it took. I’m not magic, but you get the point. I got pregnant quickly. Supersonic preggers. Look Ma, I got skills!

We were so excited. I won’t brag about how easy breezy the first months were. No morning sickness. No nothing. Just happy little butterfly flutters in my belly. We found out what we were having, because, well, you know. I’m nosy. I need to know things.

A girl!! Exactly what we wanted.

After that, instead of a Friday night movie – we’d head to Barnes and Noble and look up baby names. There must be an Irish/Ukrainian/Indian name right? Not so much. We knew the middle name would be Anne, because 1) Indians don’t really have middle names so I was open to anything and 2) My husband’s family has a long line of strong, beautiful women with that middle name. She could have no other middle name.

But there was an Indian first name that I loved. Asha. It means wish. Not just a small, penny-in-a-fountain wish – but a deep, burning, full-of-love wish. Asha Anne? It could work. I began working on my husband, trying to convince him that this was the name for our little one. He wasn’t loving it, but I think I would have talked him into it. Eventually.

2 months into my “Asha” obsession, my husband came home from work with a deeper than usual frown on his face. Then he proceeded to tell me about a woman who’d just started in his group that was making his life miserable. Anyone care to guess what her name was? Anyone? Bueller? No? It was ASHA. What? Come on!  In the words of Vizzini in The Princess Bride – inconceivable!

Long story short, we didn’t go with that name. But we found something even better. There are so many other details about that time that fill my head.

I could tell you about my doctor (I’d never met a Hasidic Jew before and the first time we were introduced he said,” you don’t ask me why I have curls and I won’t ask you why you don’t wear a dot, ok? Loved him). I could talk about the raging postpartum depression I had that lasted for months, and then one day, just turned off like a light. I could talk about how we painted a hallway yellow and called it a baby room (it was beautiful).

I went into labor at 5am. We hopped into a cab and my water broke. The driver didn’t act surprised, #cabsaredirty. I was in labor for a bit and then she was born. I remember my husband clearly saying to me, in the midst of my epidural haze, “we’re a family”. The next few hours, days, weeks, months were a blur.

I’m sure a lot of people assumed she was a “surprise” because we were so young. None of our friends were even married, let alone parents. We lived in a city where it was normal to see a twenty year old strolling around with a baby – because she was the nanny, not the mommy.

But we were unapologetic. She wasn’t Asha, but she was. Because she was a wish. A plan. A purpose.

That was 15 years ago. There’s a ton of words I could use to describe her. She’s funny, smart, beautiful, kind, thoughtful, stubborn, careful, sarcastic, passionate, loyal – I could go on and on.  Every time someone from the outside world tells me how amazing she is, I try not to do what I naturally want to do – which is to say,” I know right?”. I just say thank you and go cry in a corner.

Happiest Birthday to my first-born. Here’s what happens when you blink.  Your baby goes from this…

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To this…

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What a difference a day makes

Here’s where I spent about 8 hours yesterday…

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Here’s where I spent 8 hours today…

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Then there's this guy.

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He’s from Mars.

The Big Apple

Despite a rocky start – we had a great weekend. My son’s team won their first soccer game of the season (8-1) and the weather was beautiful.  We had promised to take one of my daughter’s friends to NYC – her very first visit, and Saturday was the day.

They had a blast – and I had a blast watching them have a blast.

Although they let me take a ton of pictures during the day – the only ones I’m permitted to show are the following:

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We started our day here. Now, you’re probably thinking that you’ve never seen this in the top NYC destinations list…well it should be. This is Glaser’s Bake Shop. On the upper east side of Manhattan – called Old Yorkville. Over a 100 years old, owned by the same family that started it and still going strong.  It’s an important focal point in our tour of the city, it’s also an important focal point in my family’s life. My husband and most of his family (including me!) worked at Glaser’s at one point or another. Herb, one of the two brothers that now runs it, is one of my husband’s dearest friends. A father figure that has been in his life for decades. He’s also my daughter’s Godfather. This is also where our little family got it’s start.  Our very first apartment in NYC was on the third floor of the bakery building.  We were married while living there – we had our baby there, who’s now 8 feet tall and showing her pal all the sites of her old neighborhood.  We wouldn’t know what to do without Uncle Herbie.

So that was stop one. We loaded up on Herb’s famous black and white cookies and off we went.

And since our sweet tooth was raging after Glaser’s – we headed right to Dylan’s Candy Bar (check!). The only place where I’ll let my kids eat from a chocolate fountain. Which, generally, I think are really gross. I imagine buckets of cheap, melted chocolate being used over and over again. Yuck. But the last time we were here, I spoke to the woman who ran the fountain – and she said they throw out the unused “liquid” and if they see anyone’s finger/hand/hair/body part touch the chocolate – it’s over. They shut it down. Is this true? I dunno. But I liked her attempt. So I was ok with the girls partaking. I passed on it. Communal dipping fountains are just not my thing. No matter what the nice lady says.

We hopped on a subway (check!) and headed downtown.

We landed right in the middle of a street fair.

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From there we walked to Washington Square Park (check!) and then to Union Square (check!)- who needs America’s Got Talent, these performers were much better.

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The girls – “ummm…do you smell that….”

Me – “incense! That’s incense! Let’s keep walking…”

Then my daughter’s pal said,”I’ve never been in a taxi.”

We fixed that. We made her flag the cabbie down (stealing it from an angry young hipster to boot!).

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(that’s a slurpie in their hands, and per Mayor Bloomberg, it’s a small)

We ended the day in Times Square (check!). By then the girls were tired, hungry and worn-out.  Success!  I took some touristy shots – but they liked their selfie the best.

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These two beauties are even prettier on the inside.

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