Bits and Pieces

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

We're leaving town for a work trip (on my end) later this week, and after a verrrrrry slow few weeks, I suddenly feel overwhelmed with all the things that have to get done before we're gone for 10 days. I'll of course put off prepping and packing until the verrrrrry last minute, but that doesn't mean it won't be on my mind. B's tax season is over today (H.O.O.R.A.Y!!!!), so he's coming to New York with me to keep me company now that he's the one with an open schedule. I'm excited to go exploring in a familiar place (Levain cookies here we come!!!) and have a change of scenery. The wind is causing the rain to bang on our bedroom window as I type this, and I'm very much over this eight-month Chicago winter.

Below are some iPhone pics from recent moments if you care to see (I ran my first 10k! We celebrated the Iranian New Year! We had the most delicious chai on a dreary Sunday afternoon)! Hope the sun is shining wherever you are ;)

Becoming a Morning Person ... Trying, At Least

Friday, April 13, 2018

I'm far, faaaar, from a morning person. You don't have to know me well to know this. In college, my dorm's breakfast/lunch (in the building's basement) ended at 2pm, and I'd often miss it. A few weeks ago, Brian was on the phone with my cousin and his wife, who live in Australia, at 7am, and they asked how I was. He said my alarm had just gone off, and everyone on the phone agreed a storm was brewing. And, the kicker of all stories: I've been with the company I work for for three years. A new teammate was joining last spring, and I asked when she'd be in on her first day. My boss said "8:30, so before you!" And I told him that while I'm never early, I'm always in the office by 9 (or, you know, at 9). He said "That'd be good, if we started at 9..." Long story short (after checking with HR, our employee manual and surveying, oh, everyone...), it turns out our office starts at 8! And I had no idea. For years I've been going in at 9. He said he never felt the need to correct it since I'm obviously not a morning person. So embarrassing!

This year my New Year's resolution was to have a better morning routine, and with a few little changes here and there, I'm seeing some progress. It's nothing major, but I've realized that's key. Little changes and small goals are the only sustainable way to do it.

The first thing I did was remove most electronics from our bedroom. The number of cords underneath my bedside table has driven me nuts for years, and I finally did something about it. I now keep my laptop on the living room credenza, with its charger in a drawer, and keep my work laptop in my backpack. I keep my iPad in the kitchen, and, most importantly, charge my phone outside the bedroom in our entryway. If something else has to be charged (the wireless speakers on our dresser, a camera, iPad keyboard), it has to be charged in the den. This change hasn't come easily, but I feel so much more energized not scrolling social media right before bed or checking my emails with my eyes half closed in the morning.

For years I refused to keep my phone somewhere else with the excuse that I needed it as an alarm. This small, battery-operated alarm clock forced me to change that. I love how sleek it looks, that it only shows the time if you touch a button (no bright light) and, the best part, doesn't have a cord.

I really want to be the type of person who goes to the gym before work, comes home, does her hair and makeup, wears a trendy outfit and is in the office by 8. But I'm not. And likely will never be (I missed 2pm breakfasts, guys). I was trying to meet that standard, and knowing I wouldn't, had given up on mornings completely. But a few months ago my friend Jessica told me she savors mornings. She wakes up, makes her favorite coffee, gets ready, catches up on email and freelance work and feels energized before leaving to work. Inspired, I've been giving it a try, but in a way that works for me.

In the morning, before I get dressed, I either make a cup of coffee with our remarkably easy and delicious Nespresso (with the perfect steamed milk) or a big glass of fresh squeezed orange juice with our powerful citrus juicer. I truly look forward to either, and the thought of enjoying them in no rush gets me out of bed. Then, I want to be the kind of person that makes a healthy, hearty breakfast (what I really want to be is the kind of person that has time for an outside run and shower, too), but I'm not, so instead of I've made it a priority to have breakfast items I enjoy on-hand (like these homemade pop tarts). I should probably sit at my desk (posture, productivity, blah, blah), but I take my breakfast to the couch and knock out some freelance/blog emails from there before packing my lunch, gym bag and getting dressed for the day.

These are little changes, and if you saw me running out of the house, late as always, you wouldn't be convinced I've made any, but I'm getting somewhere. I don't think I'll ever fully be a morning person, but I'm savoring those early quiet hours, and doing so is making the rest of the day feel a little more quiet, too.

How do you make the most of your mornings? Do you have any strategies that help make mornings easier?

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

A Happy List!

Monday, April 9, 2018

A happy list just because :)

10 things that are making me smile as of late.

1.That feeling after I've rambled for far too long after Brian asks "How was your day?" and everything that was looming is suddenly gone.
2. Cooking with no deadline.
3. An energizing run.
4. The unexpected compliment.
5. Planning summer getaways. And beach days. And al fresco dinners.
6. The fact that I'm finally getting a haircut this weekend (after too many months to share).
7. Getting cards in the mail.
8. Samoas. And the people who buy them for me every year <3
9. New friends who make me laugh.
10. Old friends and neighbors who are always down for an impromptu glass of wine. Or three. Or four.

Check out more happy lists here and email your list to ladan.nikravan{at} if you'd like to participate. Hope you're having a great Monday! xo

Homemade Pop Tarts

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I haven't popped in here in more than a month, and I can't tell you what I've been doing. Not because it's secretive, but because it's been a whole lot of nothing that doesn't amount to four weeks. A whole lot of Real Housewives (of anywhere) in bed, of eggs for dinner, of wishing B's tax season was over, of Netflix documentaries that keep me up at night, of the occasional jog around our neighborhood to avoid chores. Brian kept pushing me to take a solo trip to Mexico a few weeks ago ("I think you need to eat popsicles under the sun," he's too good to me) because even though he's working terribly long hours, he realized how lethargic I've become. I couldn't take him up on it (I fear I'd just watch the housewives a couple thousand miles away, and being a brat does not deserve to be rewarded), but I have been trying to bring some spring cheer and proper self care into my day-to-day, by way of delicious homemade pop tarts, a deep tissue massage that nearly killed me and weekday dinner plans with friends that'll get me back to the routine of cooking (and drinking a glass of red wine or two ;)


For the pastry: 
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 additional large egg (to brush on pastry)

For the jam filling: 
3/4 cup jam
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water

For the frosting:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon almond milk

*Ingredients follow Smitten Kitchen's recipe. Directions loosely follow that. 

To make jam filling: Mix the jam with the cornstarch/water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool.

To make the dough: Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Work in the butter with your fingers, pastry blender or food processor until pea-sized lumps of butter are still visible, and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it. If you've used a food processor, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Whisk the first egg and milk together and stir them into the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive, kneading briefly on a well-floured counter if necessary.

Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a smooth square. You can roll this out immediately or wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Assemble the tarts: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

If the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15-30 minutes. Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface and roll it into a nine-inch square about 1/8" thick. Cut each square into three 3-inch stripes, or six total.

Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of jam on one end of each strip. Brush a rectangle of egg around the jam, to glue the sides together. Fold the dry end over the end with jam.

Use a fork to crimp the edges together on all sides. Repeat with remaining pie crust strips.

Move the pop tarts to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15–18 minutes, until golden. Cool.

After the pop tarts have cooled for several minutes, whisk powdered sugar and 1-2 tablespoons milk together to create an icing glaze. Spoon over the top of each pop tart and immediately sprinkle with sugar sprinkles. Let the icing dry, either on the baking sheets of on a dry rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

A Pizza Party!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Last weekend, before my mom went overseas for a month (anyone else have a hard time with their family being away or have you grown up?), B and I hosted a little pizza party with my family. He got this cool stove-top pizza oven for Christmas, and we've had weekly homemade 'za nights since. It makes the best crust and each pizza takes six minutes. It's the coolest contraption and we'll take any chance to show off B's new skills. 

I have yet to master a pretty charcuterie board, but my saved Instagram grid is full of them. I'm good at the taste element (this cheese, this cheese and these crackers are amazing), but it never looks how I hope it will when I'm wandering the aisles of Trader Joe's. We picked out some items from Wayfair to use that night, and these beautiful gold-rimmed plates and striped Italian-looking napkins helped step up my appetizer game. 

We put all of the pizza toppings in different bowls and let people decide what they wanted on their pizzas (but mostly everyone delegated and trusted the chef to do his thing ;) We've made our own dough before, but since it's so cheap and equally delicious if you just buy it, we've resorted to that almost always. A lot of pizza places will give you some for free (and we have an amazing pizza spot by us), but we usually just go for what's in the fridge/freezer already.

Pasta salad in the most beautiful bowl. My mom, sister and I all have it now! It's the perfect serving dish and looks like something you'd pick up in a market in Europe. 

At long last we have a pizza pan to make us really official. You can't be official when you're cutting your pizza on the back of the box or on a plate. But official we are, so get your orders in. 

If you're on the hunt for a pizza model or salad bowl, I'd recommend this kid and this mint green bamboo one ;) Also, we cheated and "made" a TJ's salad and everyone ooo-ed and ahhh-ed asking for the recipe, and we were busted. 

A few weeks ago we hosted a pizza night and I broke a beloved stemmed wine glass, so I learned my lesson and we're going stemless for a while. These come in two varieties (red/white) and the price can't be beat.

A little break for everyone to play HQ Trivia ;) Are you obsessed? I only downloaded it so someone could get a free life, but I always forget to tune in. My brother and B have gotten to the second-to-last question, they'll strike it rich any day now. 

Yummy desserts, cappuccinos and old fashioned cocktails to end the night. I'm still not eating sweets (a few more days!) and the leftover cheesecake in the fridge has been staring at me all week. 

It was so nice to have my family over, it makes me realize how cozy this home finally feels. It's nights like these that make winter in Chicago a little bit more bearable. 

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

A New Valentine's Tradition...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

For someone who really doesn't care about Valentine's Day, I've sure been posting a lot about it!

I wanted to share a new tradition Brian and I started this year and hope to continue for many years to come. Since we always like to get each other something small for V Day, we decided to start buying each other a book every year, something we think the other will enjoy. I got B this one, and he got me this (with a sweet note written on the first page that broke me <3). We haven't read either ourselves, but I'm confident our research led to good picks. B said he read mine has stories that "stick in your head for days" — right up my alley.

We've also discussed doing a book swap in the past. We're always telling each other about the books we're reading (every night I've been filling Brian in on this one), but a book takes you an such an epic inner journey, it's almost impossible to share with someone who hasn't read it too (like when you try to retell a dream out loud, another daily occurrence around here). Anyway, would love to swap a few favorites with B sometime.

But for now, I love this new tradition and can't wait to read my book and for the collection we'll grow over time. I love you, Brian Lee Hayes.

The Cutest Valentine's Day Cards!

Friday, February 9, 2018

We have a snow day today!!!!!! Poor B has spent 70 percent of his week at work and the other 30 percent shoveling our driveway, but surely it'll stop soon and we'll just have a cozy day inside sipping on lattes before transitioning to wine ;)

I wanted to share these cute Valentine's Day cards I received last week from HelloKatieElizabeth. I mentioned in my last post that I took a modern lettering class last weekend, and I find it so difficult, I have a newfound respect for artists that make it look so effortless. Katie's cards are so cute, funny and only $5 — and she does custom projects. I'd love for her to make personalized birthday cards with inside jokes for my family. 

She has lots of other cards, too. I love this wine one (I have a few to send to girlfriends randomly) and want this one framed for my desk. Check them out and order ASAP for pre-Valentine's Day delivery! 

Stay warm, everyone. 39 days until spring, we've got this! 

Bits and Pieces

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Winter and I aren't the best mix. I always arm myself with my trusty hot water bottle and a good book, and try to have a can-do attitude, but I get draggy by 4 p.m. and the only thing I can think about when I'm outside is when I'll come back inside. I've spent the majority of the past few weeks under the covers watching trash television, waiting for B to come home so we can watch The Leftovers (I'm OBSESSED). But in between the chilliness and laziness there have been some highlights, like my siblings visiting, taking a calligraphy class and scheming summer travel plans. I can't wait to ride my bike and wear sandals!!!

Below are some iPhone pics from recent moments if you care to see! Hope things are cozy and a little more exciting wherever you are ;)

The Perfect Valentine's Day Gift...

Thursday, February 1, 2018

I've never been big into Valentine's Day. It's so unnecessary to me, and (more) truthfully, I'm still having nightmares from my first with a serious boyfriend. We were 19 and bribed his older brother to buy us a bottle of wine, which we shared on the floor of my college dorm, eating cold kabobs out of styrofoam to-go containers while watching Real World. My roommate was in the room, too. I ended up getting really sick for some reason and spent the rest of the night vomiting in the girl's bathroom having friends take turns taking care of me and other girls joining me to puke after their indulgent evenings throughout the night. It was terrible. And my family surprised me on campus the next morning. And didn't know about my boyfriend. It was a total disaster. 

A couple of years later I met the cutest tax accountant who's unfortunately a slave to the man this time of year, so we've always pushed V Day aside (besides, again, it's super dumb). But B always manages to get the sweetest little gift (last year I got him pajama pants that match our sheets, I'm also a romantic). A few years ago he got me a print that says "Come sit inside this tent and eat a snack like probably cheese" that he said he saw months before and instantly thought it was made for me (truth!!!) I love it so much. It's hanging by our bed, and it makes me so happy every time I see it. 

Prints and cards make the perfect gift (we have a few cards framed around our place, there are such great ones here). Finding the right one for someone (or, hey, yourself) feels like you've hit the jackpot. I recently got this print for our bathroom, and I'm obsessed with it. Brian and I have had countless conversations about what it means to be in love, whether soulmates exist, inevitable life after death, and this simple print is the perfect summation of so many of our thoughts.

It's no secret that we love Framed & Matted and got this print framed by them as well. We got a colored mat for the first time, which makes the print pop more, and I wish we had incorporated that into our living room gallery wall

We love Framed & Matted for lots of reasons. First, there are dozens of frames and matting options to choose from, and the process is less intimidating and more accessible than other framing experiences because all the options are up to you, and you make decisions in the comfort of your own home. Second, the prices are reasonable and they promise speedy turnaround time. Third, every part of the process is customizable. We have a photo in our hallway that we wanted a unique size mat around, and Framed & Matted made our image come to life. We've been customers for some time and have nothing but good things to say :) 

So, this Valentine's Day, if you're looking for a little gift that means a lot and lasts forever, I'd start looking for the perfect print and get it framed by Framed & Matted. This print would look so cute with their double matting, blush pink and white ;) 

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