It was International Women's Day on Wednesday, and March is Women's History Month. I am feeling all the amazing female power filling my life lately, and it could not be more inspiring. Not only am I surrounded by strong and wonderful women in my family, but also my best friends, colleagues, and clients. Then this wonderfully crazy world of blogging and Instagramming has injected my life with some genuine female friendships that I had no idea would come of all this. Not only have I met so many people IRL thanks to Instagram, but the daily interactions I have on there with amazingly impressive souls spanning the globe is something to be truly thankful for.
So, continuing on with my Women Who Inspire series! If you're just joining in now, this interview series taking place every Friday (pausing Favorite Friday Finds for a bit) is meant to initiate a more in-depth discussion about the realities that happen offscreen, with women who are innovators and creators. We tend to forget that these people who command large followings on social media and/or are public personalities are just as human too. A human with their own struggles, insecurities, half the hustle you don't see, triumphs, and more. You guys know I'm all about embracing your NOW, rather than the living for the "after" pictures. I wanted to look beyond the pretty feeds and filters into reality.
I didn't even intentionally mean to highlight so many of my foodie friends first, but that's the way the dice rolled. I've got more inspiring women from all working realms coming up too, so this woman we're about to chat with today is a great person to highlight. Not only is she a talented food photographer and blogger, she is also a freakin' engineer (!), an Etsy shopowner, along with being a wife and a momma to two ADORable kiddos.
My dears, I'd like to introduce Amisha from The Jam Lab! You may have spotted her gorgeous creations over on her Instagram or over on thefeedfeed, but if you haven't met her yet-- now is a good time as any to fill your feed with the most wonderful colors and an uplifting voice.
First of all, I've known Amisha for a few years now through the Instagram space, yet I JUST found out that she's a full-time engineer. I'm sorry, what?!
I am always fascinated by women in STEM careers, because they're a rarity. It's that much more impressive because thriving in an extremely challenging field that for the longest time was not particularly kind to females nor society's "obvious" choice for women, is so admirable and badass. Then to know Amisha first by her creative and fun sides through her blog and Instagram, only to find out that she has this whole other world going on, amazes me. This is what I adore about my industry-- everyone is so remarkable in their own right, because everyone usually wears multiple hats.
Amisha is seriously one of the sweetest people I've come to know. Her love for her family and food, and how those two passions and purposes link together in her life, is beautiful to see. She lives in beautiful California with her husband and two kids, and boy does she take advantage of California's bounty of gorgeous seasonal produce. She runs an Etsy shop with her homemade organic artisanal jams, and then also frequently incorporates them into her stunning recipes. I also love how she weaves her Indian roots into her creative dishes, like these gorgeous Thandai shortbread cookies. Her food and her blog/Instagram are a very genuine representation of Amisha, as you will see in her interview today.
Let's get to know her better by kicking this thing off!
Hats you wear: Engineer, mom, wife, cook, jam-maker, food blogger, food photographer, recipe developer.
First thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning: Look at my kids faces.
Last nice thing you did for yourself: Got a pedicure/manicure.
3 words to describe your strengths you’re most proud of: Resilient (Strong), Compassionate, Creative
3 characteristics other people use to describe you: Smart, Creative, Strong.
Current book you’re reading: I read only cookbooks lately!
Current favorite physical activity: T25 and walking/running.
Current color crush: Red.
Current song on repeat: Paris by The Chainsmokers + Shape of You by Ed Sheeran.
Current thing that never fails to make you smile: My family, including my 2 kitties.
Next purchase or experience on the bucket list: Travel to Europe.
Thing you’re most looking forward to right now: Anytime I get to bake!
5 words to describe what love means to you: Unconditional, giving, hugs, kisses, family.
Morning bird or night owl: Night owl!
Coffee or Matcha: Neither, I am a tea drinker! Need my morning cuppa chai!
Sweet or savory: BOTH! Can't live without the other.
Favorite lazy girl weekday meal: Tacos.
5 items always in your purse/bag: Phone, wallet, a snack, lipstick, gum.
Get Shit Done
Life doesn’t always go according to plan, so we choose our battles. What are your daily non-negotiables?
I cannot compromise on food. I need my meals, because they give me energy to move forward with the amount that I do on a day-to-day basis. Plus, I need minimum 6 hours of sleep to function the next day.
What’s a habit you’ve adopted in the past year that has had a significant positive change on your daily routine?
I drink warm lemon cayenne water every day, which helps to jump start my day.
Mountains to Climb
Your job is a lot closer to home than most. While most everyone brings home work these days, thanks to emails on phones and the workforce being more demanding, your job actually entails documenting and sharing your everyday. How has that affected your relationships with friends and family?
I try to avoid going on social media in the evening, when I am with my kids. It is extremely hard and I do check posts etc., but I will not reply to people until my kids go to bed. This is extremely important to me. Many a time my kids have taunted me, that “Mommy is on Instagram, liking pictures." It was funny the way they said it, but at the same time it was the hard truth; hence I try to refrain from touching my phone while they are around.
When my husband and I are out on a date night, I refrain from being on the phone. It is nice for us to be in the moment, and to enjoy each other’s company and be together. It is hard but I am getting better at it. I don’t believe it is fair to us if I am on the phone on our date.
How do you stay present and unplug when you need to?
The above answers this question 😊 On vacations as well, I try hard to minimize my phone time to spend quality time with family. Kids grow fast, and this time will not come back. Live in the present, enjoy the family, and the time together, because they are with you forever.
Do you think you have your shit together?
No! I don’t have my shit together, and I think about how to get it together every day! I do what is in my hands and what I can control. We can rectify or fix what is in our hands. That is totally up to us. Always see things in perspective, and work slowly through your problems. One thing that I need to work on is my exercise regime. There have been some hiccups in my personal life; slowly they are being sorted out, and I can get myself back into a routine.
Do you think anyone else does?
No! If they do, they ‘think’ they have their shit together. Life is tough, life is hard. I have been through a lot in my life. It takes a lot of courage/strength/positivity to get through issues and problems. But I know this, life is like a wave, good times come and go, bad times come and go. We have to embrace what comes to us with a smile, fight the bad times, and enjoy, appreciate, and be thankful for the good times.
From time to time, we all get caught up lusting after others lives— whether it be their travel photos on Instagram, their beautiful home, their adorable husband + babies, their burgeoning career, etc. What do you do when you fall down the rabbit hole of comparison to others in your field?
I have worked hard for all that I have. I do wish I had a beautiful home, or I was skinny, or that sometimes I could work from home permanently. But when these thoughts strike me, I look at what I have and what I have done so far, and I am thankful. I feel blessed. Everything is perspective, and to be happy and content with what you have is something we all need to strive towards. Work hard, and things will fall into place.
I know that I certainly suffer from wanting to be everything to everyone all the time, but it’s just impossible to do it 100% of the time. I'm sure as you juggle being a wife, mom, and blogger, you're familiar with this. How do you go about managing that pressure?
Being a wife, mom and a working woman, everything has a priority. I do what works for me, and for my schedule, because I am trying to juggle a million things! Of course I am here for anyone who needs my help, and I still go out of my way to do things. Time management is of utmost importance, and to be able to manage tasks within a certain time frame. I have to say, I could not do what I do, without the help and guidance from my husband, who is my rock!
Do you believe that you have to “have it all” to be happy?
I wish I could say that I have it all to be happy. It is a continuous process to find happiness in little things around us. Happiness is relative. Happiness from material things is temporary. Being able to find contentment with what you have is key.
I find that I frequently see women responding to compliments by a humbling attempt to play their successes or attributes down, rather than just owning their awesomeness— why do you think this is?
I feel women may play their successes or attributes down, mainly because they do not want it to seem as if they are bragging about something. It could also be that maybe they do not have good listeners who are willing to acknowledge their worth. Sometimes your own people will not see your successes as much and as well as someone who does not know you that well who will see it and appreciate it!
One of my best friends and I will frequently talk about this— the saying that “do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life” and how it sets unrealistic expectations for those venturing out to make their passions their careers. Olympic athletes love what they do, but they sure as hell aren’t showing up to every single day of training thrilled over the moon to be there. I know I love my job, but it’s actual work that I dedicate a lot of energy and sometimes not so fun work to. What do you think about this trend and if you’ve made the transition, what are some of the realizations you’ve had from it?
I do not completely agree with this saying, because like you said, everything requires work. Any passion requires a very strong commitment, skill, drive and a DON’T GIVE UP attitude to survive and succeed. Many a time, even if your work is your passion, something may not work out as you want; and then you have to work even harder towards your goal. It is NEVER a bed of roses. BUT if you want to pursue your passion, talk to the right people, network, get to the sources, and ask for help! And NEVER SAY NEVER! If you do not ask you will not receive! So never hesitate to ask. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help.
What’s one thing you’d like to see more of in your children's generation?
Competition is good, but it is way too fierce out there for kids. There is a lot of stress/anxiety/competitiveness that can hamper a child’s well-being. It needs be under control. We need to spread love, compassion, passion, and provide for good food which is nutritious, healthy for their bodies – that is what is required for the children of this generation. Food is a very passionate topic for me where kids are concerned. My kids eat sweets and desserts, but I make sure that they are eating their meals well. Everything in moderation is the key.
What is an important thing in life that that you feel like the world is lacking lately and could use more of?
Love and compassion is lacking. Communication is lacking. Talking nicely to a person can make a world of a difference in someone’s life. Being a good listener does wonders.
What is currently frustrating you the most about the industry you work in?
Being an engineer, there are very few women engineers, and it is a male-dominated industry. You have to work extra hard to make your voice heard.
In terms of blogging and Instagram, I feel the most frustrating part is that there is so much talent out there, but so many times, good talent is unnoticed and mediocre talent gets so much undue attention, which is so unfair. I really hope people who are talented, somehow find a way to get themselves to be noticed.
Define “being healthy” in your perspective?
Being healthy means eating the right foods. Like in my case since I am vegetarian, it means lots of vegetables and fruits, along with good grains. I am not vegan, and I do not believe in a no carb diet. I believe everything is good in moderation. In our Indian diets, we eat a little bit of carbs from the roti, protein from the lentils, vitamins/minerals from the vegetables. It is good for us. It is ok to indulge once in a while. Being healthy means being active physically and to be able to workout at least 3 times a week (in my case with my schedule), or more if you can afford to.
Whether it be focusing on nourishing foods, working out, or general self-care, why is it important to you to take care of your body?
I have to take care of my family, and if I do not take care of myself, I will not be able to take care of my family. My family comes first of course, but I do make it a point not to skip meals, to try and workout when I get a chance, because it gives me energy to be able to do all the things that I do.
Working out has become such a mainstream part of society now that people are forgoing the late nights partying for group dates to cycling classes and bootcamps. Because of this trendiness of it all, do you ever feel like it’s almost made fitness less accessible or more intimidating for newbies and those who feel out of shape?
I think it is fantastic that people are so conscious about being fit, not for looks, but for being healthy. I do find it hard to keep up, of course because I have little kids. I do what I can, which is suitable to my needs and with the time I have. I always wish I had more time to work out more often, but I can wish for a lot of things, can't I? 😊
What is the one thing you’re most thankful for about your body?
I have made a conscious effort to change the way I eat, from my past. I am thankful for not having to see the doctor more than my regular checkup every year.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
I love being in both food and technology. I started off my career as an engineer, and I work with the current technologies to deliver products in consumer homes. It has been very gratifying, especially when you see your product being sold at major retailer stores!
On the food front, I started my Instagram account because of my jam business. It has been extremely gratifying to know how much people have enjoyed my jams, and I have customers who keep coming back. It feels really nice to know that people enjoy the flavor combinations; that has been an integral part of who I am as a foodie. I have received positive feedback from people about my food, photography and the recipes, therefore I started my blog to have a place where I could share good content with people. And the best part is when someone comes up to you and asks you “Are you @thejamlab?" It feels really nice!
What internal struggle do you wish you knew about, heading into your field of work?
I wish I had good career guidance/counseling when I started off my engineering career. I was always very interested in animation and the right guidance would have put me in a different direction than I am currently. Not that I do not love what I am doing now, but at the beginning of my career it would have been something that I loved to do.
How do you strike the balance of authentically creating content versus curating just to what you think your audience wants to see?
I do a bit of it all. I will put jam related recipes because I love coming up with new recipes to use my jam in, and sometimes you will see authentic Indian dishes on my feed/blog. Sometimes it will be my baking experiments, and sometimes it will be some international foods. I guess what I am trying to say is, I love food and I love to showcase what I cook. Period. I want to be honest/authentic through my feed, to showcase who I am.
How do you see the blogger/influencer space evolving as social media continues to rapidly develop and change?
IThe blogger space and social media go hand in hand as I see it now. Instagram has really blown into a huge space to showcase and share your thoughts/food/views, but it is not enough to get projects or to make money. Although I do see Insta Stories as a huge value to showcase your business or make cooking simple for a person who is not into cooking! I started my blog less than a year ago, and from my experience, I have received a lot more opportunities for projects and interest in sourcing my jams, since I started my blog. It is your personal space, a space to share with viewers/readers, and to showcase your talent through recipes or food photography. Social media and blogging go hand in hand, and it can cultivate into something extremely fruitful, if used in the right way and strategically!
A huge thanks to Amisha for sharing her kind heart, infectious positivity, and calmly wise perspective!
All photos courtesy of Amisha and her beautiful blog + Instagram.
Make sure to click on the photos that link directly to all of these gorgeous recipes, and check out her Etsy shop to score some of her amazing organic artisanal and seasonal jam made in small batches right in her home state of California! That blood orange rosemary sounds like heaven.