Pasta Non Pronto

I spent the day yesterday covered in flour (semolina and all purpose), and I was thrilled! A few weeks ago, at a neighborhood party, I found out that two of my lovely neighbors, Larry and Marcela, knew how to make pasta from scratch. I started asking a lot of questions and then blurted out,” would you teach me?” They agreed and our day of “not ready” pasta or pasta non pronto came together.

We did what any normal, food obsessed people would do. We had a meeting to talk through what we would make. The types of pasta, the sauces, the wine…. oh there would be wine!

There would be 3 different pasta courses. Ravioli, spaghetti, and fettuccine. The ravioli would be stuffed with pumpkin and served with a butter sage sauce. The spaghetti would be served cacio e pepe, which translates to “cheese and pepper” and the fettuccine would have a fra diavolo sauce – which means “among the devil”, it’s a spicy sauce with seafood. To break up the courses we’d start with salad, then some homemade meatballs as apps and then 3 courses of pasta. This is the anti-Keto dinner people. If you’re afraid of carbs… don’t come a knocking.

But before we feasted – we cooked! Oh boy did we cook… here’s a look at my favorite day this year! Words wouldn’t do it justice, so here’s the photos…

Humble beginnings
That filling was so good we could have just eaten it with a spoon and we might have.
Have you ever seen anything prettier?
Little pockets of perfection
My two fabulous teachers.
A pecan, sage, garlic butter sauce to die for, and the lovely chef who made it!

And now… we eat!

We ate the spaghetti cacio e pepe before I could take a pic… but it existed. And it was amazing.

This is my happy pasta face….

If you can, find some generous, loving people who want to spend a Sunday cooking pasta with you..that’s my happy face.

Ps. My 16 year old son opted out of the fresh pasta and requested this type of pasta for his dinner. Kraft pasta pronto 🙂

Call it the “everything’s fine” filter….

Sometimes the picture doesn’t tell the whole story. We all know that. This is the age of social media. We filter, we tweak, we tune-up. Every post or pic looks like it was smooth and effortless. I thought I’d share one of my favorite pictures from this past weekend and give you some scoop on what happened right before this cute shot was taken.

First, some context: It’s my cousin’s baby shower. That’s her in the adorable dress with the adorable bump. We were so excited to celebrate with her and her hubby.

My sister and I had helped her plan all the details. I wanted to be there early enough to help set-up so I came the day before. Drove to my hometown, spent the night with my mother.

I Got up early, showered and came down to breakfast with my parents. I was dressed for the day but didn’t have my make-up on or my hair done.

My mother said, “I like your gown.” Hmmm – gown? It was a long dress for sure, but I didn’t focus on it.

Some more context: the night before, after dinner, my mother had laid out nightgowns for me in the bedroom. This may seem strange to many people – I think an immigrant parent is needed to fully understand this. There’s always a clean nightgown waiting for my stayover. There’s also a brand new toothbrush, toothpaste and anything else you need. If, for any reason you ask for something my mother doesn’t have for you… you better know that there’ll be 19 of those things next time. To make up for this time. It’s very sweet. On this visit, however, I’d brought my own pjs. I’m 47. It’s completely normal to want to wear my own pajamas. Right??

This did not go over well. She’d laid out a winter one and a summer one – what was the problem? Why couldn’t I just wear those? After a 10 min of conversation, I convinced her that I was ok but so thankful for the options. I had my own nightgown.

Back to breakfast. Once done, I ran upstairs, put on what I considered a full face of make-up, blew-out my hair before the eventual drop of humidity would kink it out, and headed out the door. As I was leaving my mother said,” oh you’re changing out of your nightgown at the party?”

It took me a minute to catch-on. My what? I calmly smiled and said, nope, this is my actual dress for the party. Not my nightgown. Up until that moment I thought it was a really cute dress.

What’s the moral of the story kids?

Yes, just wear her nightgown.

Anyhoo I’m in such a good mood about the shower I don’t even get fazed. I get into the car, in my nightgown dress and head to the venue.

In the car were the flowers, the cupcake toothpick flags, the pink and pumpkin colored chocolate covered strawberries, the gifts, the welcome sign and some other things we needed to decorate. Because I didn’t have enough stuff in my car, I made a pit-stop and bought balloons – just in case.

I pulled up to the venue, parked right at the front door blocking the small entry way but decided it was ok because it was just for a short time. I just wanted to run in and grab a cart to take all the stuff inside.

I came back outside with the cart, opened the driver’s side door to unlock the trunk, dropped my keys on the seat and pushed the unlock button and shut the door. But it wasn’t the unlock button. I locked the car. For the very first time in as long as I can remember… I locked my keys in the car. Right on the front seat. An hour and a half before everyone was going to show up.

Did I mention I also left my purse in the car? Did I mention my phone was in that purse in the car?

I stood there staring at what I’d done for about a minute and the baby momma-to-be showed up. I put on my biggest smile and said, “can I have your phone?”.

Long story short – everyone should have AAA or is it Triple A or maybe Triple AAA. It’s worth every penny. Especially when you’re blocking a major entrance to a venue with your big old Subaru and have everything you need for someone’s party in the trunk. Everyone should also always serve mimosas at baby showers.

We got everything out. 30 min to spare.

So now look at the picture again. A couple of mimosas and a quick break-in later, everything was as perfect as it looked. Nightgown dress and all.

Service please! Pretty please?

Here’s an unfiltered picture of where we’ve been for a couple of days. Peaceful. Beautiful. Wide open beaches with no fighting for the best view…everyone gets a good view. We try and come to this little piece of heaven every year. It’s a fancy place but we come all unfancy. We stay with family. We avoid all the crazy crowded restaurants. We try to vacation like a local.

Except we’re not local. We know it. They know it.

A couple of years ago, my husband’s godmother took us to the most delicious little pizzeria in town. It was so unassuming and relaxed – but the food was no joke. The lines out the door proved it.

We began going every time we visited. It was always a sure thing.

You sit. You order a $20 dollar bottle of wine. If you’re my husband you order the seafood fra diavolo, and If you’re me, you get linguini with garlic and oil… because cheese is no longer my friend. And without fail… the food is good. Really good.

Is it slow? Sure. Is it the best service? No. It’s a pizzeria, we get it. I’m not looking for a concierge level experience. I’m looking for bare bones. I’m looking for some water. I’m looking to get the stuff we ordered getting to us. Maybe a quick, brief check-in to see if we need anything. Basic.

Tonight we got none of it. Nothing.

Let me back up.

Admittedly I’m a tough critic of restaurants – food and service. It’s my job. It’s what I worry about all the time. Service. Food. Experience. My husband is the opposite. By the burly looks of him you’d think he’d be the harder judge. But he’s a softie. His mom waitressed to make ends meet when he and his sister were little. He heard all the stories of crabby customers. It’s a hard job. Thankless. Under appreciated. He’s very very sensitive to that.

His idea of a tip for bad service is 18%. It’s his ultimate “gotcha”. If that man leaves you less than 20% you basically didn’t serve him at all. I’ve seen him overtip at every level. I’ve seen him go back to a restaurant where someone else has paid for our meal just to confirm the tip was good. He’s nuts! In a good way. I am mostly in agreement with this. Except when it’s bad service.

We’ve lived with this dichotomy for our entire relationship. I know he can’t take it if I ask the person waiting on us for more than 2 things,” excuse me, can I get some salt?”, “can we get some water?”. That’s it. That’s all I get. And I’m fine with that. Do I mentally make note of all the things that could have gone better? Ofcourse! Do I say anything? Almost never. Like practically never. Between my husband and my kids, the goal is always the same. Don’t make trouble. Just let it go. And I usually do. But not tonight.

Tonight was the worst service we’ve ever had. Worse than the time our waiter left his shift and never told anyone he still had a table. Worse than the time the woman waiting on us was having a full blown fight with the kitchen staff. This was… epic bad. I’m not going to go into detail. You can guess. I’m sure it’s happened to you too.

To clarify how bad it was, when I said to my husband at the end of our dinner,” wow, she’s getting zero tip. None.” I waited to hear what I thought he’d say, which is,”no freaking way”, instead he said,”yep”. I couldn’t believe it. No talk about how harsh I am. No talk about her having a bad day. Nothing. Just full agreement. She was worse than I thought.

So. For the very first time since I’ve known him – about 25 years – we left no tip. By the way, even though this was a very casual pizzeria type place, our bill was over a $100. That’s how this town rolls. And guess what? The food was worth every penny.

Even now, hours later, we are both guilt ridden. Justifying to ourselves why we left her no tip. Trying to validate our actions so we can sleep tonight. It’s no bueno.
We weren’t rude. We weren’t mean. But it still feels rotten. Have you ever done this? Please lie and tell me you have. Going to bed now. Full of regret, guilt and antacids.

My darlings

This quote by Aldous Huxley was posted by a good friend a few weeks ago. Besides the fact that we are legit living Brave New World, I’d forgotten how much I loved his writing.

I sent the quote to my kids immediately. They’re used to it. I’m always sending them videos or quotes or things I need to make sure they see and know. Not sure it ever sinks in but I’m calling it an effort and checking my parenting box for the day. Sometimes that’s all I have the energy for.

“Lightly, lightly”…. it is the best advice.

I think about it at work. At home. On social media.

I’m pretty good about not overthinking. Obsessing. I don’t have too many talents but one has always been that I can walk away from anything or anyone that makes me feel bad. I’m not into it.

Someone said to me that I’m always in a good mood. That’s not true. I’m always trying to be in a good mood. I see no point in being miserable. I also think it’s almost always a choice. Unless there’s abuse involved or if you’re a young child – you can choose to not be miserable. At least try.

I know it’s easier said than done. I know there’s a lot of competition for joy out there. Everyone’s got their own definition of what joy looks like. That’s ok. Because there’s enough for everyone. It’s abundant. Your joy may come from hiking a mountain, mine comes from Bravo. Doesn’t make it any less or more joyful.

Don’t let the quick sands drag you in. Don’t scroll Instagram or Facebook and be angry. You’re using it wrong. Don’t blame the game. Use it for what you want it for. Walk away from the rest.

Same goes for people. There are a lot of people in the world. A lot. Like everyone else, I’ve found some good people and I’ve found some duds. The duds have to go. Doesn’t matter if they’re friends or family. It doesn’t mean that they are evil or bad or that they’ve done me wrong in any way. I just can’t carry their weight. Too heavy. Too hard.

I also know that I’m a dud in someone else’s story. I get it. I’m ok with it.

I’ll keep reading this quote. Maybe you will too❤️

Behind the Scenes: Lessons Learned from Neha

Guest Post! This is from Sarah. Let me tell you all something about Sarah. She could run a small country if she wanted to, that’s how smart she is. I’m not sure what serendipity led her to the same company as me, but I am forever grateful. During my first few weeks at this job, I felt like an alien. I was “one of these things does not belong with the other” material. Then I found Sarah. And Jeanette (another lucky strike). I don’t know why I trusted them both immediately – but I did. And it made everything ok. These are the people I hope will start their own blogs, because people need to have them in their lives, like I’ve been lucky to have them in mine.

Guest blogger here – I’m Neha’s friend, Sarah. She assigned me to write a blog post “by Friday. Not draft. Final copy.” I asked her for a topic or a word count and she said “no rules.” So I decided that to share the lessons I have learned from her over the past 5+ years with you, dear readers.


“No Rules” I brought my two and a half year old to her house with one request — please tell him that to hang at your house that you have to use the potty. We arrived, I tried to start the show with her about the potty… and she blatantly ignored me. “Um, there are no rules at my house” and then proceeded to feed my son chocolate, French fries, cake, flavored seltzer, and any TV show he asked for in a reoccurring loop. I secretly hoped he would pee his pants on her couch while he was under her spell. Another time she whipped out a big toy truck on a random Saturday to buy his affection. It worked. Lesson learned, visits to her house may only be about indulgence.

Earlier this week, I asked my little guy what is his favorite thing. He answered “Tia Neha” and then “cocktails.” 🤦🏻‍♀️ He is two and a half.

Friendship with Neha means telling her everything big and small In jlooking at the history of our texts, it’s everything from “please help me, I’m in a bind” to “Is this crazy or normal?” to “are you aware of how many orange cars there are in PA?” I feel like I must tell her all of my big and small thoughts. After her blog post last week about the Revlon hair dryer, I had to confess and apologize to her that I’ve had that for two years and never told her about it. Then to atone for my sin of omission, I sent her approximately 17 texts, including links, of my most important hair products, tools, and why. Yesterday I texted her a play by play about how I got and now have pink eye.

Don’t Only Drop the Ball, Through It Out the WindowAnd Neha has become the place I bring my confessions and guilt… and most of the time, she tells me that I am too uptight and let it (whatever “it” is) go. After hearing this for five years, during which time I became a parent, I have fully embraced not only dropping the ball, but throwing it out the window.
A few months ago, my husband asked me if we have a nice Easter outfit for our son the day before. Nope! Can you try and get one today? Probably not because it’s second on my list after my top priority of taking a nap. Little guy wore his “fanciest” sweatshirt. While playing in his sandbox today, our little guy decided to take off his shorts and underwear. Sure dude, now we have a “nudie beach.” Sand got in every possible crevice. I sprayed him down with the hose afterward like a dog.
Let’s forgot the “should haves” or niceties. Friendship with Neha is getting permission to tell someone who is being crazy that they are crazy, or declining an invitation no reason given.
So I leave you with that — don’t just drop the ball, throw it out the window. It feels great. And if you need permission…email Neha, send her your confession, and she will tell you to stop being so uptight.

Are you planning a really cool reveal? If yes, read this first.

Here’s my advice…ready?

Don’t plan a f@@king reveal!

Please. For the love of all things normal, don’t do it. I’m sorry. Can we just stop? I know what you’re thinking after the last post: “Aren’t you a good time gal?” “You said you’re up for anything?” “Why do you hate America?”. I am a good time gal. Yes, I’m up for most things. And I love America. I also love a good announcement, a good overshare. I’ll look at your baby/wedding/engagement/prom/vacation photos all day. I think people who plan elaborate surprises for their loved ones are amazing. Good for them! But I’m done with the “reveals”.

It all started with the baby gender reveals. I get it. It’s a big deal. You’re bringing a human into the world. Go ahead and order some helium balloons to release into the environment. Feel free to ruin a perfectly good cake by stuffing it with pink or blue m&ms. I’m not judging.

But my feed is filling up with other reveals. The prom”posal” reveal, the vacation location reveal, and now, the where-I’m-going-to-college reveal. Seriously, it’s a thing.

I know we want to celebrate life. I’m down for that. And you all know I’m nosey. I love hearing personal details…but must we make everything a thing? Can’t somethings just happen? BTW – this is not an anti-social media post. I have zero hate for social media. Has it made us a more insanely self-consumed world? 100%. That said, would I give up make-up tutorials I can watch at 2am? 100% no. This is also not an anti-Millennial post, I love Imagine Dragons and Twitter! And I’m not even offended you all think you can do my job better than me, you’re probably right!

Im not trying to be a partypooper. I’m all for posting on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, wherever! Post your kid’s acceptance letter, post them wearing their new college shirt, etc. I love it all. I’m just not sure I need learn about your kid’s college decision through a bakery reveal, is that fair?

I can’t believe I’m saying anything negative about cake. Cake is never a bad idea. Now I want cake. Ok, rant over.

Je m’appelle…

Hello world! Or hello 825 followers if I’m being more precise! First post in over a month but who’s counting? Are you counting? I hope so.

A lot has happened since we chatted last. Some work. Some home. Mostly TV. More to come on that later.

Today’s post is about my name. Yep. Mi nombre. A few weeks ago my daughter’s boyfriend (adorable guy), asked if he could interview me about my first generation childhood. He said it’d take an hour and he’d ask me questions about my childhood, adolescence, etc. My answer was yes, of course. An hour to talk about myself as if I was on Oprah (not the new Super Sunday version…the old 4pm talk show version)? Who would say no to this? Not me. Not the gal who literally started a blog thinking people were dying to know crap I did and do and think about. Anyway it was so much fun. He promised to share the final version of it with me and if it’s flattering and makes me out of be some national Indian treasure, I’ll share it with you.

I’m telling you about the interview for two reasons. 1) to show off, obviously 2) because it got me thinking about my childhood. I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much time talking about how I grew up since…well since I started dating my husband and he grilled me like the FBI. But lately, something has been coming up. For some reason, in the past year, maybe 2 years – I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my name. Specifically…how my name is pronounced. Even more specifically – how I’m letting people mispronounce my name.

My name is Neha.

It’s an old-school Indian name derived from the Sanskrit version (Sneha). It means love and tenderness – which will come as a big surprise to those who usually use other words to describe me. You know who you are. In the proper Indian dialect (choose your favorite), it’s pronounced Neigh-Ha. Neigh…like what horses say, and a very soft ha. Not like a karate chop HA! That’s how my very young, wonderful parents imagined my name being said all over India.

Except my young, wonderful parents didn’t stay in India. They hauled ass to the USA. Jackson Heights, Queens to be exact – in 1979ish. To get the exact date I’d have to call my mother and disclose why I need this info, to which she’d say I’m giving super personal info to strangers on the internet who want to kill me. True story. My mother thinks the internet is out to get me. She’s right of course.

Let me set the stage. Jackson Heights today is not what Jackson Heights of the late 70s/early 80s was. Today, there’s so many Indian immigrants that have settled there, they call parts of it Little India. Back then it was still mostly immigrants, but there was a broader mix – Chinese, African, Puerto Rican, and some Italian and Irish to balance it out. In today’s Jackson Heights – my young self would have had other Nehas to mix and mingle with. My young self would have gone to a school full of other people that looked, talked, lived like me. But that’s not how it was.

My dad was a pharmacist – the reason we came to the US was for his job. My mom was a teacher in India but her certifications weren’t accepted here, so she got some random part-time work. My parents did one thing. They worked. They didn’t socialize. They didn’t have hobbies. They worked. I had a job too. One job. School. That’s all I had to do. My entire focus was school (and TV. Indians love TV. It’s a stereotype I know, but it’s also true). As was the case for most of my elementary and middle school life, I was the only Indian in my classes – and sometimes in the school.

I don’t remember the first time I said my name to someone outside my family. I wish I did. I wish I could remember how and why my name began being pronounced like Leah…as if it was spelled Neah…Knee-ya. It all makes sense. I’m sure I wanted to fit in. I’m sure I wanted to not be different, but I don’t remember making a calculated effort to change how people pronounce my name. But maybe I did. I definitely wanted to assimilate. I wanted to dress like everyone else, eat like everyone else (lost cause), date like everyone else. My idea of a perfect boy was a blonde, blue-eyed dude with a one syllable name. Speaking of names, I would have given up a limb to be called Kelly, Jane or some other really white name, so maybe this was the closest fix. I just wish I could remember that happening. I probably need some deep therapy to remember, but the irony is that I remember other things really well from that time. The Saturday night line-up…. Dance Fever followed by Love Boat and ending with Fantasy Island. I remember the slice of pizza my mom got me every Friday after school – this was early 80s NYC pizza. Big. Flat. Foldable. I remember getting a Rubix’s Cube. It was my parent’s favorite kind of toy. Quiet, cheap, and portable. I remember all kinds of useless info. The moment that changed the way people said my name? Not so much.

I’m going to interrupt this line of thought for a quick moment. One of the things I get asked often when i’m trying to explain why my name is pronounced the way it is, is this question,” well how does your family say your name? Do they use the wrong version too?” No. No they don’t use the “wrong” version. They don’t use any version. My family almost never, and I mean literally almost never, calls me by my given name. For the majority of my childhood I was known by a pet name – a loving moniker – Bittu. And it’s pronounced how it looks. Bit-To. It means “little one” or “little thing” or something like that. That’s what my parents, aunts and uncles called me. Once I had cousins old enough to talk, they called me Didi. Which means “big sister”. I know what you’re thinking…I’m a cousin, so why call me a sister? It gets even better. Now every member of the family calls me Didi, including my parents. Confusing, right? Listen – I can’t explain why all Indians are confusing – I can only explain the ways I’m confusing. Are you still with me? Are you over it? Bored? How many times have you checked your insta? Tell the truth. I just needed you to have some background since I assume you’re making a case in your head about why I’m a psycho.

So after Jackson Heights my parents moved us to the hub of diversity and inclusiveness known as Albany, NY. No offense if it’s gone through some major change and my sarcasm no longer applies. Remember when I said I was the only Indian in the school growing up? Well in Albany I was the only person of color in the entire school! And it was middle school to boot. Good times. Actually they were good times. I have been incredibly lucky in my life and have always met friends who helped me through. In 7th grade something amazing happened. Two Pakistani girls moved to town. Twins. Huma and Asma. We immediately became friends. They were my first ethnic friends! I mean I tried being friends with a girl named Chang back in Queens but she was allowed to hang out less than I was so it didn’t work. I enjoyed my white friends whose parents let them come to my house for hours with no issue. Anyway – back to my first brown friends. They had just moved here from London. Dad was a doctor and divorced (scandal!). They came to the US to be closer to his sister. They all had these amazing accents which somehow cancelled out their “otherness” and made them hugely popular. It didn’t hurt that they were loaded and had a house with a pool (a rare jewel in Albany). Their dad worked crazy hours and the girls were mostly home alone – another bonus. I loved their house. It was the opposite of my house. No one cooked. My house smelled of ginger and garlic all day. Their house smelled of…nothing. Heaven. The twins’ dad was the first person to tell me that I was mispronouncing my name. Lucky for me his daughters were mortified and told him to never to talk to me again and I moved on.

Actually my family moved on. We moved from Albany to Harrisburg, PA. Again, Harrisburg today has a full, lively Indian culture. Back then? Nada.

My dad believed any religion was good religion – so I went to a Catholic High School. It was diverse”ish”….but guess which population there was only one of? That’s right people. Still me representing all Indians. Dot. Not feather.

It wasn’t until I went to college in NYC, where I minored in religion (by mistake) and had to join a club as part of my Religions of the World class, that I met a whole bunch of Indians. I joined The South Asian Club for two long months. They were a nice bunch – most of them had grown-up in Queens, in the exact neighborhood that I’d started out in. Turns out Queens went full-on Indian soon after we moved out. On another side note – by this time I was dating a half Irish/half Ukrainian New Yorker. That’s right people, he’s blonde, blue-eyed and most of the time has a one syllable name. All my dreams really did come true. Anyway this new bunch of friends all tried to educate me on the correct way to say my name. I left soon after. Not just because I didn’t want to be lectured to, in all honesty, I left because they met on Friday mornings at 8am – which didn’t work with my Thursday night at Terminal Bar schedule.

I’ll speed up. The 90s were vapid. No one really cared what the origins of my name were or how to say it correctly. Easy peasy. Even the early 2,000s were a non-issue. It wasn’t really until the last few years when people started getting “woke” that it came up again.

The 20 year old intern who asked me gently if I knew how to correctly pronounce my name. Yes, thank you. Next. The well meaning friends who have other friends who pronounce the same name differently. Yes, I know. I get it. You feel like you’ve been doing me wrong. But you haven’t! I swear. It’s not you. It’s me. Well, technically it’s not me, it’s my name.

You know I even went through a real immersion-into-my-culture phase in high school. We would go to India every year at that time to visit relatives (relatives who also never ever called me by my formal name). I was way into the culture, the movies, the food, the language – all of it. I was a Junior in high school and all I wanted to do was be different. I was thrilled to show-off my funky jewelry and henna’d hand. But even during that time – I never thought about changing the way people say my name. What does that mean? What does that say about me? I dunno. I’m sure there’s a million ways to dissect it. To “help me”. I’ll have to find a therapist and have them give me an answer. Or maybe I’ll Google it.

My point is this…aren’t you glad you made it to the point! Mazel. You’re almost done. My point is that however it started, and whatever reason I did it or maybe someone just started calling me that and I went with it – whatever – it’s how I’d like you to pronounce my name. Yes, the wrong way.

Trust me – it’s a daily struggle. People say my name in all different ways. Correct, incorrect, messed up, etc. I don’t mind any of it. I met a wonderful friend last year through work who is French. We had a long discussion about this. She told me that in French – the direct translation of Je m’appelle isn’t “what is your name?”. The meaning is “what do you want to be called?”. I love that. Je m’appelle Neha (knee-ya).

In conclusion, I’m moving to France. Au revoir.

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