Father's Day Gift Idea

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Last week my friend Sara texted me, "Ladan, what are we getting our husbands for Father's Day?" Great question. And a question I ask myself months in advance because in the span of four weeks every year we have Brian's birthday, our anniversary and Father's Day. That's a lot of brainstorming for little ol' me.

I feel every woman says this about her partner, father, brother, but Brian is truly the hardest to shop for. He has everything and asks for nothing. For his birthday this year Neda and I got him this cardinal shirt because he's shared his love for them repeatedly (and we thought it was funny :) For Father's Day this year he said he wanted "us," so I got him us framed by Mimeo Photos.

I ordered a framed 8x10 photo of me and Neda from our trip to Charleston last year. It's a candid snap Brian took, and Neda looks so, so sweet and pure to me in it. It was unbelievably easy to order — I uploaded the photo from my phone while waiting for Neda in the school pickup line! And it came in less than a week. We gave it to Brian immediately (we also gave him his birthday present a month in advance, oops), and he has said several times that he loves it so much. 

I can't recommend Mimeo Photos and all of their products enough (I've used them for more than a decade, remember?). We love this chic white framed print, but if you're running out of wall space, this blanket would be so special! And, I love a good photo book, of course. So many Mimeo Photos gifts would be perfect for the dude that has everything. 

(This post was sponsored by Mimeo Photos. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

My Yearly Photo Books

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Every year since 2011 I've made a yearly photo book that has hundreds (pre-Neda) to thousands (post-Neda) of photos from each year. I'm notorious for taking photos all the time, and it's the best way to house everything in one neat spot. And, a little spot, until you get 11 stacked together! Those following me on Instagram have come to expect my posts on these books every January, and to know me is to know they are my most prized possessions (look at this blog post from 2014!). If I had to grab one item from this house and run, it'd be this stack (or the 2019 book if you're really letting me only have one). I'm always curious what other people do with the precious photos on their phones and hard drives — please tell me they don't just get lost there!

I started dating B at the end of 2010, and I made my first photo book for 2011, so it feels like our entire relationship has been documented through these. The big moments (the night we got engaged! hundreds of photos from the dozens of vacations we've been on! the day I found out I was pregnant!) and the small (so many meals, random snaps from the couch, selfies). I see how much I've changed and grown through every book, and I see so many stages documented. 

For years, I made my book on iPhoto on my MacBook and ordered it directly that way. But, a few years ago, iPhoto stopped offering printing services, and I was unreasonably upset. I already had a handful of books I loved, and I didn't want to switch the look and feel for the next handful. Through message boards I learned that Mimeo Photos was the one printing iPhoto books behind the scenes, and now I could get the same by going directly to the source. 

I use a Mimeo Photos app on my MacBook, but you can also make the books directly on Mimeo Photos' site. My sister just made her wedding album that way. The whole process is incredibly easy. Brian likes to remind me of this because I dread the task every January. In my mind, it takes me forever to gather all the photos I want to use and forever to make the book (and forever to pick the quote/poem I always have in the front flap to summarize my feelings on that year). But, it doesn't. This year I started on January 2, spent half an hour a night, and I was done by January 6. And now she's here! I've spent longer flipping through it with Neda already. 

Neda has loved looking through these books for some time now. Most recently, she asks to see the 2017 book and flips to us feeding monkeys in Japan. She also loves "the day baby Neda came" from 2019 and seeing "mommy and daddy when Neda was in mommy's tummy" (2011-2019, she thinks she was in there for 31 years). Thousands of precious memories with her are captured, and I'm glad she'll have these when she grows up and isn't down the hall from us. Maybe I'm naïve and she won't want them, but I'm glad they'll exist if she does. 

Mimeo Photos has tons of templates to choose from, but I always go with the blank one for the most flexibility. Then I add 1-36 photos on each page, 100 pages total. Every book starts with January 1 and ends with New Year's Eve (there have been less flashy NYE photos year after year...). It takes seconds to download thousands of photos into the Mimeo Photos library and you can easily see which pictures you've already added to the book and which still need to be slotted. And, the books are extremely reasonably priced. I've tried dozens of services and while some are cheaper and some more elegant (I used Artifact Uprising for our wedding album), I don't think Mimeo Photos' quality can be beat. It's why they were Apple's chosen vendor for decades.

It's likely you're not as sentimental as me, but these books bring me so much joy, I can't help but encourage you to sit down and make one this week. It's worth it, I promise! And, I truly can't recommend Mimeo Photos enough. Blog posts are few and far between these days, but this is a dream partnership and something I had to hop on here to gush about.

Next up I'm finally working on Neda's baby book, which will require digging out the external hard drive, printing photos and trying to remember things that probably weren't catalogued during those sleep-deprived months. Wish me luck! 

P.S. Mimeo Photos is offering readers 25% off with code MAKEMOST. I've only ordered yearly photo books but there are lots of beautiful products to check out :)

P.P.S. The quote for the 2021 book in case you're curious: “There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things that do fall under the jurisdiction… I can select what I can read and eat and study. I can choose how I’m going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life — whether I will see them as curses or opportunities. I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.” — Elizabeth Gilbert

(This post was sponsored by Mimeo Photos. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

Still at Home...

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Neda was born in September 2019, and a month before she was born, I started working from home. My generous maternity leave had me home until mid-winter 2020, and just as I went back to work, a global pandemic started and the world shut down, sending me home. I've been in our little apartment day-in and day-out for almost two years — sometimes with Brian, sometimes with Neda, mostly all together, rarely alone. I know every nook and cranny. I know when the sun shines where. I don't know why the dryer keeps breaking. 

I've started getting extra bothered by things that would have bothered me less otherwise — the rust stains on our comforter from said broken dryer, the one wonky kitchen cabinet that could fall off any second, the bathroom sink that only drains properly one week a month. But, I've also come to appreciate the cozy spaces. The spaces I've spent countless hours in the past two years that still bring me comfort when I walk through the door. On the top of that list is our living room, so I was thrilled when Wayfair offered an opportunity to share it and our favorite products in the room. 

As tired as I am of this same routine, which has be confined to a two-block radius (Neda's school is around the corner and the grocery store is down the street), there's something about that "same" that has made the past few years feel more content. Despite the frustration, anxiety and stress, there's been a welcomed change of pace and opportunity to take a step back and look at everything. And realize the good and things that don't need changing. Like, this Wayfair rug is the first thing we purchased after buying our condo five years ago. And five years later, it's one of the only purchases I still love. We get a lot of compliments on it (it looks so much more expensive than it is!) and it's so easy to clean. 

I also love our Wayfair throwpillows. I'm always shocked at the price of pillows (and why aren't inserts included?!?!?) but these are pretty and reasonable (this one is my favorite). 

I love that every inch of the living room is usually covered in Neda's toys. I love Brian's desk from his grandma, his beloved office chair that he pined over for months before taking the plunge, but mostly I love that he's home with me day in and day out, making me laugh between meetings and being tech support when I need it :) I miss our old lives sometimes, but there's a lot of good in this new one, too. This little apartment and its little living room has been good to me the past two years. 

(This post was sponsored by Wayfair. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

Finally Getting to This... and That... and This...

Thursday, February 11, 2021

smoothie time is always the best time at our house!

We're reaching the anniversary of this madness (you know exactly what I mean), and it's truly unbelievable. When I left the office last March, I was so sure I'd be back in a few days —  few weeks, tops. I left my jar of chocolate truffles! That's how naïve I was! And, yet, here we are. Nearly four hundred days later —  four hundred! And still no end in sight. 

For months (like, 11 months) I've been getting on work calls with people chiming in on the home renovation projects they've tackled  — wallpapering a nursery, gutting a bathroom, all new kitchen appliances. I always lay low. I've got nothing to offer. Not only have I not tackled a big project, I haven't tackled even the smallest. That is, until February 1. We hit the reset button around here. It was time to take care of the little things that have been driving me nuts for nearly four hundred days and add a little excitement to our lives (by way of shower hooks...). 

So, here it is! With many thanks to Wayfair we've made some little changes that aren't close to wallpapering a nursery, but they're feeling that big! 

1. This list is in no particular order, but after five years of saying I will, I replaced our rusty shower curtain hooks, and I don't think $8 has ever been better spent. Brian was so disappointed when he opened the package (and doesn't understand my happiness about them now), but the shower looks cleaner and the screeching sound when you draw the curtain is gone. The curtain glides. All of this joy for $8! 

2. Since before Neda was born, I've made it a point to have minimal baby stuff. I believe so firmly that you don't need nearly as much as they say, and these days, she prefers the Amazon box the toy comes in over the toy itself! But, over the past 16 months, her toy collection has grown, and it feels like we're living in a toy store that's going bankrupt. There's stuff everywhere. Enter this Wayfair basket and this Wayfair basket. I have a living room again! And, once she's older (but no rush, Neda!), I'll fill these baskets with adult things once again. 

3. This is along the lines of the shower curtain hooks, but hear me out. A new sponge holder. The old one was a $5 purchase from the grocery store on the day we moved in and realized we didn't have one, and it was grimy and quite gross. This one will get there sooner rather than later, but for now, it's clean and shiny and doesn't bother me when I'm washing dishes for the 50th time on a Saturday the way the old one did. 

4. New sheets. Because new sheets are always a good idea (even if you're boring and get the exact same plain white Wayfair ones every year). We haven't stayed in a hotel in nearly two years, and I don't see us going to one anytime soon. Anything I can do to bring a little luxury to our own bedroom, I'm in. Also, these sheets are on sale from $23 from $120, so it's time to stock up.

5. And, a luxury item! Because we've earned it. Every single one of us. After years and years and years of wanting one, I took the plunge and got a Vitamix. I couldn't bring myself to register for one when we were getting married ($!), but now I'd recommend anyone do wholeheartedly. I love it. Brian (the biggest skeptic!) loves it. Neda loves it. On Saturdays, she drags it out after her nap for her green smoothie. It's got a hefty price tag, but it's our favorite appliance and we use it daily. We even convinced my sister and my parents to get the exact same one :) Goodbye annual blender purchases that always left me disappointed. 

Will these make the next eternity at home perfect? Likely not. We're going quite crazy over here. But, they have made the new year more refreshing and our home more exciting to us. And little things like that go a long way these days.

Shop the post: shower accessories, storage containers, kitchen organization, bedding, blenders 

(This post was sponsored by Wayfair. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

2020, A Year in Review

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Oh, 2020. What is there left to say, even? In a way, it's comforting. We all get it. In a way, it was nice, it slowed me down like never before. In a way, I'm still processing it (it's February, after all, and I'm writing this blog post now...). In a way I never, ever want to relive it. It was a hard year, and a lot of its stress and anxiety has followed me into 2021. 

A friend who knows me better than most suggested this be the year of limits for me. For too long I've reached higher and higher, and it's time to sit back. And be OK with sitting back. There are blog partnerships, freelance clients and recent work projects that are some of my highest achievements. Having McDonald's reach out to me for  sponsorship a few years ago will forever be a bright spot for this little blog of mine. But, the days have become long and the nights longer, and it's time to put my limited energy towards my day job and my family. There will be blog posts here and there (our wedding anniversary posts are so special to me) and freelance pieces sparingly because I can't sit completely still, but I need to slow down and take things a day at a time. The plate has been too full for too long. 

I took a Peloton class yesterday, and the instructor said there are people out there who would gladly take your problems, and they'd call them blessings. This is true. And I have to remember that. I'm putting aside opportunities and privileges that have served me so well and are truly a blessing. I am grateful for all that I've been given. And for you. For coming here. And for 2020, even, for its beautiful memories and the opportunity to enjoy my home and my partner and my baby like I wouldn't have been able to otherwise. There's a lot of good, and in 2021, I'm hoping more peace. 

In case you're new around here, these big photo dumps are my favorite thing. If nothing else, I think you can count on more of these around here :) (year in review posts from 2019201820172016201520142013!) Wishing you the happiest new year. Let's be extra good to ourselves this year. 

The Perfect Valentine's Day Gift for This Year

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

B and I have never really been into Valentine's Day. In the beginning, he was always working late that night (tax season), and I'm not one for prix fixe menus and crowded restaurants (a trait that has served me well the past year ;) After we got married, we started a new tradition of getting each other a book on the holiday, and that's something I've come to cherish (especially the love note in the front flap), but other than that and a giant bag of candy hearts, nothing much to report around here. 

This year, we've gotten a little more into holidays. What else is there to get into, after all? But, it's hard to give gifts in this upside-down world. I've always prioritized experiences as gifts, but since we're not experiencing much, there isn't much to give. I wish I could book a massage for B, get a dinner date on the calendar, go rock climbing, to see a movie or museum. Oh, I wish that so badly! But, in the absence of those, framing photos from a few precious moments in 2020 is such a special alternative. 

Late last year, Simply Framed reached out and asked if I'd be interested in getting a few photos printed and framed. I looked around our house, and every photo was from before Neda was born. The chaos of 2020 put little updates like that at the very bottom of our list (we're just trying to survive around here!), and I didn't realize how stale and dated everything felt. We've been going through the motions every day, scrambling to fit in the essentials, but a little change like this has been so nice to look at at the end of a long day. 

The first thing I did was choose three images. I pulled them up on my screen and picked three frames I thought would complement each. I picked a location in our house for each of them and chose the sizing based on that. The best thing about custom framing is that you're not locked into a specific size. The best thing about Simply Framed is that they do it all —  print, frame, ship. There's absolutely no chance this working mama was going to get it together enough to have these printed and then go hunt for the perfect frames. Again, survival mode still, folks. 

These are the three frames I chose: one, two and three. I wanted them completely different in case we do add them to our gallery wall, which has various colors and materials already. I also played around with the matting on each because if you can customize, might as well, right? The standard options are just as beautiful, though. 

Maybe, down the line, we'll hang these, but I also like that we just have them leaning with no intention to have them up on walls. I also like that I picked some of my favorite memories from last year. Maybe, I'll update each frame with a fresh memory every year. 

This feels like the best gift to give this year. An opportunity to reflect on the good from last year and bring some extra magic into the house. After all, it's where we're spending all of our time these days. 

P.S. The deadline for Valentine's Day shipping is 2/1!

(This post was sponsored by Simply Framed. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

Matching ADAY Jackets for All!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Hi! Happy holidays!? How is it the holidays already? What are the holidays this year, anyway? For the past 10 years, B's had a little four-foot Christmas tree he's moved to a few apartments that now only lights up on top and has some permanently-squished branches. It's endearing, but I think it's time to say goodbye to it. But, do you decorate with a curious one-year-old who's favorite activity is grabbing anything she shouldn't? A rhetorical question since we have a new, bigger, brighter tree being delivered today. And I bought some new, already cherished ornaments from my beloved Foursided for Neda to break. Here we go! 

Our typical holidays are complete chaos around here, so as terrible as this ongoing quarantine and global pandemic is, I'm looking forward to a slower pace. For Thanksgiving, we only saw my family, who we've had in our little bubble since March. Any other year, we'd be running to at least four houses that day. Instead we spent the day drinking mimosas, eating dozens of appetizers and doing a little photoshoot in our matching ADAY Up In The Air Jackets.

It's no secret that I adore all of ADAY's products (my sister does, too!), and now we have my mom on board :) I love the jacket in all three colors, but if I had to do it again, I'd snag my sister's Moss one. 

I asked my mom and sister if these are athletic or fancy, what is the protocol when we can finally go places other than my parents' house and have outfits to look forward to? They both said they love the jacket for its versatility. And, it's so warm but comfortable! I wore it to run errands on a chilly November Chicago day, but my sister wore it inside all day on Thanksgiving. If you're looking for a gift for any woman in your life, I can't recommend ADAY products enough and think the Up In The Air Jacket fits all body types so well. 

Who knows what Christmas and New Year's Eve will look like this year (hopefully pajamas, hopefully homemade pizza), but I know there will be photoshoots in matching clothes (I got these again for me and Neda girl). And, as topsy-turvy as everything has been this year, I'm so grateful for some extra time with those in my bubble. I love them all so!

(This post was sponsored by ADAY. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

Matching Smith Studio Knits Hats

Monday, November 23, 2020

It's pretty clear that Neda doesn't really look like me. But, a dozen times a day she does something that's 100% me, and Brian just looks at me in shock. Like, "what did I get myself into?!" :) Like, she hates dirt. If she sees even a spec on the floor or on her, she'll get herself to me as fast as she can and point that it should be thrown away. And, everything has to be cleaned up, always. I think her favorite part of playing is cleaning up. The other day B had moved his shoes from the back den to the kitchen, he wanted to eventually move them to the front door. She pointed at them for them to be put away endlessly until he gave up and took them to the front door, where they usually are. Shoes, coats and hats have to be taken off the second we walk in the house; food must always be eaten in her high chair; 7pm is bedtime, no negotiation. I could go on and on. She's 14 months and a mini me through and through. Absolutely no chill.

I'm so thrilled Smith Studio Knits sent us these matching hats so we can look a little more alike. We are both obsessed with them. I wasn't sure Neda would understand that they match, but she couldn't stop giggling on Sunday when she noticed we had the same hats and same Patagonia jackets. I hope she always loves it and giggles about it. I have no plans to stop. 

Elaine, the owner of Smith Studio Knits, is such a sweet soul, it was wonderful to chat with her about her business and the community it has created for her. As someone who has only drops of gas left in the tank at the end of each day, I'm so inspired by small business mamas who never stop. 

Tell me more about Smith Studio Knits! When did you start it? What made you want to?

I had taught myself how to knit and crochet when I was a little girl. I did things off and on growing up, but I really started getting back into regularly making items after my sister’s started having kids. I became that aunt who was gifting handmade for every occasion. I had found a pretty active maker community on Instagram and had no idea how many people were selling their products. So I thought I’d give it a try and I first opened an Etsy shop in fall 2018. The timing seemed perfect, as I was transitioning to a new town and becoming a wife and stepmother. I decided to make the jump to building my own website in the beginning of 2020 and it proved to be such a pivotal decision. Having more control really allowed me to refine what I wanted my business to be and how I wanted to best serve my customers.

What makes Smith Studio Knits stand out? 

I think a major thing about SSK that’s unique is that I try and bring a personal touch to everything I do. The advantage of having your own business is that I get to shape every aspect of it. I tend to design with my own style in mind. Every piece I make is something I’d wear. I love classic style, but I don’t think that means the pieces can’t have a modern spin. 

As my business has grown I’ve also started to appreciate the aspect of slow fashion. The hours it takes from the initial design to the mailing of an order is hours and hours of work. The finished pieces are meant to last season after season and passed down from sibling to sibling. 

I try and be sustainable where I can be, too, holding onto scrap yarn to make one of a kind hats or custom items. I also do my best to support other small businesses when I can. All of my faux fur pom poms and product tags are from small shops throughout the US. I’ve also recently launched a luxury line of merino wool hats, which are 100% biodegradable, so that helps make our Earth a little happier.

Running a small business is a lot of work. How do you juggle it all? What makes it worth it?

It is a lot of work. I don’t think anything quite prepares you for the different hats you wear (no pun intended). One of the hardest things for me is keeping work hours. I tend to always be thinking of my to-do lists, replying to emails, seeking out new designs. And if I’m sitting, I’m knitting. Being a seasonal business also has its challenges. The Fall Harvest line was designed this past summer and even though we haven’t had our first snow here in Wisconsin, I’m already brainstorming for spring and summer. 

Another behind the scenes facet of a small business is becoming part of a community. I can’t say enough about all the wonderful women I’ve met through social media and local markets. Their support has definitely kept me going on those days where I feel super lost. Being able to reach out and ask advice is just invaluable and I can honestly say I wouldn’t be able to be running this business without everything I’ve learned from them. As I’ve grown, I’ve also been able to lend advice to others and that definitely makes it worth it.

Lastly, my step daughter seeing all the different components of my job has been super encouraging. She sees me knitting, packaging orders, and helps me do mail drops. I think it’s so important for her to see a woman starting and running a business. Hopefully when she grows up she’ll know she can be her own boss and that she is completely capable of shaping her own career.

Thank you, Elaine! We'll be thinking of you and Smith Studio Knits every time we get cozy to go out this winter.

(This post was sponsored by Smith Studio Knits. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)