A Happy List!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What's making me happy as of late? This, this and this again — a million times over! It's with such great excitement that I announce that Brian and I are expecting our first child! We're still in shock and take turns calming each other down (Brian's had scary dreams about car seats, I already don't want it to leave me and go to college...), but we're also over the moon. I'm 19 weeks along (almost halfway there!), and my belly is slowly but surely expanding. Our babe is growing fast and furiously and is now the size of a mango:) We can't wait to welcome this little person into the world and give him or her lots of hugs, smooches and tummy rubs. xoxo

Beautiful Stationary From Basic Invite

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

I'm a big etiquette nerd and love all things politesse (like, making eye contract while toasting and tilting your spoon away), so it's not surprising that I have a drawer full of evergreen stationary that I use liberally. When someone does something for you, hosts you, thinks of you, I think it's such a nice gesture to write a handwritten note in return thank you, your kindness was very much appreciated. But I also might send cards too often. I have a family friend who I started sending a birthday card to a few years ago. He told my parents it brightened his spirits, so I started sending a Christmas one, an Iranian New Year one and one for his wife's birthday, too. Thinking I'm an avid card enthusiast (which I am!), he now sends me cards for every holiday — Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, Easter... nothing goes unaddressed. It's funny, but it's also so sweet <3 

I'm always on the hunt for personalized stationary, and I love some new pieces I ordered from Basic Invite. There are hundreds of options for everything (evergreen, holidays, special occasions), and they're all easily customizable. I ordered my stationary sets on my phone on the train on my way to work. It was super easy (with the exception of narrowing down my five favorites).

There are 180 different color options for everything (and foil, my favorite!), so you can make everything exactly how you want it, and 40 different colored envelopes. You can also ask for custom samples to be sent before printing your order, and there's an addressing capturing service that allows you to request your friends and family's addresses by connecting your Basic Invite account with any social media channel. I hadn't heard of Basic Invite when we were getting married or when I was graduating, but I wish I had (look at these chic graduation invitations!). 

Like custom framing, I've made the mistake of custom invitations in the past, and it's a costly mistake. If you're looking for cute, affordable, personal invitations, stationary or cards, I can't recommend Basic Invite enough. Even if you're not sure what you want or need, the site's inspiration gallery is the perfect place to start.

P.S. Basic Invite is offering readers 15% off with code 15FF51.

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

Our New Water Bottles!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

As someone who can't stand clutter and is constantly embracing the magic of tidying up, it's surprising that if you open up the cupboard above our fridge, you'll be welcomed with a collection of water bottles and portable coffee cups as far as your eyes can see. An assortment that has withstood every monthly donation drop off, a selection apparently so near and dear that I get frustrated when Brian leaves one at work too long (but girl, you have 20 more!). They come in all shapes, colors and sizes (truly, 8-64 ounces and everything in between, I've got you). But, alas, the bottle to supersede all bottles arrived in the mail a few weeks ago.

B and I were gifted Infuze water bottles, and we've been thoroughly impressed so far (and, I'm telling you, we know our bottles). The water stays cold all day, and the bottle has a vessel that can hold liquid flavoring (which, Infuze offers, too). The bottle mixes the flavor with your water as you drink, and the backflow preventer stops the flavor from entering your bottle. You can turn the dial to adjust the flavor intensity. I really like the lemon-lime flavor, it tastes like candy (zero-calorie, electrolyte candy).

We're going hiking in Arizona later this month, and I'm excited to take them with us. While we have a lot of bottles, most have been too heavy or too small to pack, so we've always stocked up with plastic bottles at a nearby gas station before starting our adventure. These are large but light (Brian's holds 32 ounces!), so they'll be perfect.

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

My Parents

Friday, April 5, 2019

On Wednesday evening, for no reason at all (nothing was wrong!), my parents drove through rush hour traffic to bring me homemade Iranian food for dinner (including multiple varieties of enough food to feed us for weeks…). I was going to spend the night eating pasta and watching reality TV on the couch, and this generosity (which came a day after I got a random package from them in the mail with a dress they knew I'd like…) boggles me. No one on this planet deserves them, I will forever aspire to be them. 

Secretly, it has been a hard week (maybe parents just always know?), and I am so grateful for this love.

San Antonio, Texas!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

During Christmastime, when my parents' Christmas tree was filled with boxes of all shapes and sizes underneath, there were two peculiar ones that had my and my sisters' attention. She was relentless and wanted to know who they were for and what they were so badly, it became an ongoing joke. Lucky for us, they were for us, and even luckier, they were clues that we were going on a girls weekend getaway trip with my mom. So, a few weekends ago we spent three days in San Antonio, Texas, soaking in great weather, amazing food and lots of laughter. We've decided to make it an International Women's Day tradition (and have our eyes on Mexico City next), and I'm so into that idea.

We flew out on Thursday afternoon, returned late Sunday night, and stayed at the San Antonio Marriott Riverwalk, which was the perfect location — central to all things touristy but just a mile away or short cab ride to some more local restaurants and attractions. B actually surprised us and had breakfast delivered to our room on Friday, which I wish I had gotten a picture of. It was the sweetest gesture. We spent our days walking around, stopping for frozen drinks and chips and salsa before walking lots again. 

My mom chose San Antonio because she had been with my dad nearly 20 years ago and really enjoyed it (and, after the winter we've had in Chicago, we were begging for that kind of heat), and my sister and I were pleasantly surprised. We had amazing dinners at Ocho and Acenar and would go back for the pastries at La Panaderia in a heartbeat
— wow, wow, wow. While we (regrettably) split the Nutella cruffin on our first day and didn't get it again, we all decided it was the best thing we ate all weekend. So, so good. 

We had a hilarious adventure getting churros at Churroholic on our first night, and the next morning we had the best breakfast tacos at Pete's Tako House, where the wait was long unless you were willing to sit in the blistering heat outside (again, Chicago winter, sign us up). On our last day we had brunch at Guenther House, and I'm so glad we did because we wouldn't have seen that historic district otherwise. We walked around admiring all the old homes and history, it felt a lot like New Orleans. 

We hit up a few big tourist spots, like walking along the River Walk a few times, visiting The Alamo and walking around the Japanese Tea Garden, which was our favorite. We sat at the Garden's cafe for hours, just soaking up the sun.

We also ran into the perfect mural for the weekend — love this image of diverse women. 

I'm a sucker for any sort of tradition and love traveling, so I do hope we make this weekend a regular thing. It was so nice to take some time to unwind with the ladies I love the most <3

Bits and Pieces

Friday, March 1, 2019

I've dusted off the blog a bit this week, but in general, I've neglected my laptop most evenings at home. So much so that the other day Brian, who's used to seeing me glued to the screen when he gets home, asked if I don't have something I should be doing — probably? Maybe? Can't a girl watch Vanderpump Rules in peace? For a while I was good about getting some blog and freelance things done in the mornings, but the frigid temperatures have made me sloth-like again. I've told myself that as long as I exercise for 30 minutes a day, five times a week, a sloth I can be.

But, between the excessive couch time has been some great moments with family and friends, and while I haven't dusted off the big camera in months, I'm glad I've captured these moments on my phone. We've had a bit of a rough week around here, and looking back on these photos makes me remember what life is really all about and all the good in it. Fingers crossed for better weeks ahead, starting with a much deserved weekend <3

The Best Potluck Dish...

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Over the past few years of having this blog, there are certain things I've mentioned repeatedly. Like, if it's Brian's busy season, my nutrition is nonexistent and I'm consuming all calories in bed, one of his biggest pet peeves (side note: over the weekend, while doing a textbook compromise of eating breakfast in bed while watching an Arsenal game, I spilled my coffee all over our JUST CLEANED white comforter, further proving his point...); most of our social time with friends is spent at each others' houses, filling our dining room tables with delicious shared treats; I. hate. winter.

With that, I bring you a combination of these topics: the best potluck dish, a crunchy Asian ramen noodle salad I could eat every day without complaint. It makes fantastic leftovers so you don't have to eat fist fulls of popcorn with a spoon of peanut butter and a red pepper on the side for dinner, and has a sweetness that resembles summer and not this god forsaken season. It also takes 10 minutes to make, which, for someone who isn't into spending much time in the kitchen these days, is the biggest perk of all. I want to make big batches of it for park picnics and beach days this summer. Oh, summer <3

Ingredients (serves eight): 
For the salad:
1 (16-ounce) bag coleslaw mix
2 (3-ounce) packages of ramen noodles*, crumbled (you will not use the seasoning packet)
1 cup shelled and cooked edamame
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 mango, peeled, pitted, and julienned (or diced)
1/2 cup thinly-sliced almonds
1/2 cup thinly-sliced green onions (scallions)
Asian honey vinaigrette

For the Asian honey vinaigrette:  
1/2 cup avocado oil (or vegetable oil, or any cooking oil)
1/4 cup honey (or your desired sweetener)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Pinch of salt and black pepper

For the salad:
Heat oven to 425°F. Spread the crumbled ramen noodles and sliced almonds out on a baking sheet, and stir a bit to combine. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until the almonds and noodles are slightly toasted and golden.

Remove baking sheet, and give the mixture a good stir to toss. Then return it to the oven and toast for an additional 3 minutes. Keep a very close eye on the mixture so that it does not burn. Remove and set aside.

Add ingredients (including the vinaigrette) together in a large bowl, and toss until combined.

Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (This salad is much better eaten the first day, as the noodles lose their “crunch” the longer it sits, and the avocado may brown a bit. Still, it’s perfectly edible and enjoyable even after a few days!). 

For the Asian honey vinaigrette:  
Whisk all ingredients together until combined.

No Resolutions This Year...

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

For the first time in for as long as I remember (decades, people), I didn't set any new year's resolutions this year. Not one. Most days it has felt a little too laissez faire (and maybe this is a resolution in itself ... can I go a whole year without goals I'm constantly measuring myself against?), but the space it has opened in my brain is exactly the space I needed. I'm still working, still freelancing, still exercising, still setting goals, making lists, pinching pennies, wunderlusting, but I'm deciding what to do depending on my mood, not afraid of falling behind, taking on too much and mapping exactly what has to happen when. I feel like I've been given extra time and I feel I finally have the time to do pesky tasks I've ignored for too long, things I knew would make me more productive, but since they didn't fit neatly into my goals, they didn't get attention.

One of the first things I tackled this year was dealing with things around the house I had put off. We spend the majority of our time at home in our living room, and I've never liked the throw pillows we had on the couch. A hodgepodge of Brian's post-college buys and Target online orders I made in a rush that weren't what I was expecting (but I was too lazy to return), I finally took the time to pick ones I'd enjoy looking at. I was worried this could be a pricey project (every time I go to West Elm I'm shocked that the pillow cost that much, and wait, that's without the insert?!?!), but this, this and this from Wayfair caught my eye and a fraction of the cost I was expecting.

I also went through every drawer, shelf and closet and made piles of things to throw out and donate — we're at six big bags and counting. Next up on my list is making our den and desk space somewhere I actually want to work (it feels like a glorified storage unit for now) and our guest room a bit more cozy — it's currently functional, but far from cute. Basically, I want to get. stuff. done.

Also, after years of needing new glasses, I made an eye doctor appointment. Hurrah! This means more to Brian than myself who's tired of saying "YOU CAN'T SEE THE TV, I CAN TELL" and "YOU'RE SQUINTING AND THE BOOK IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU." Three years late, maybe, but point taken, my love.

I also feel like I have time to do things I want to be doing instead of arbitrary things I think I have to be doing. I want to make homemade pasta, take a yoga class, learn how to edit videos. Not locked into specific achievements, I think I can do more than any other year.

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

2018, A Year in Review

Saturday, January 5, 2019

A week into 2019, I'm better understanding 2018, why we needed it, what it did for us. 2018 was the year I'd been working towards and yearning for for a few years, and I look back at it proudly, fondly. In fact, I liked it so much, on a New Year's Eve run where I had the Lakeshore path to myself for miles, I got emotional at the thought of it ending, of new beginnings when I'm content with how things are going.

Looking back, I see why I didn't want to let this one go, it was a good one. I set a freelance goal for the year, and I nearly doubled it. I told myself it'd be nice to be able to run eight miles at a decent pace, I ran 10. I found a new job, the exact job I was looking for (and, in the process, surprised myself and turned down a job at my dream company). I traveled, I witnessed so much love, I pushed myself, I slowed down, I lived with intention, I let things go, I grew, I lived in a house that felt more like home than ever before with a husband I adore, and I'm still in shock regularly that both are mine.

It had its dark moments, of course, but overall it was one to hold on to. A year that showed me how much I can do. A year that stretched me thin but showed me potential. Another year with so many people and places I don't deserve but am so grateful to be surrounded with. A year that even when the glass was half empty (and, despite the gloating, there were several half-empty glasses), I was better at seeing the other side, of understanding what's outside my control and living in the moment because of it.

2018 set the groundwork, and it's the foundation we'll need going into 2019. This year will ask a lot of us, I can already tell, but we're ready for it because of years like 2018. We're going to have a beautiful year, and I'm excited to prioritize, focus and really make the most of it all.

Thank you for visiting my corner of the internet and for letting me share with you. I'm not sure what this space will look like this year, but I'm thankful it exists and has documented the past five years of my life. A few of my favorite 2018 moments below.

P.S. Year in review posts from 2017, 2016201520142013!

Do You Take Your Lunch to Work?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

What do you usually eat for lunch? For years, through high school, college and now nearly nine years of full-time work, I've brought my lunch every single day. That's not an exaggeration — I didn't pay for a workday lunch once in 2018.

This habit started in high school, when I'd rather scarf down the lunch my mom made me and then study in the library for 30 minutes with friends than stand in a long line for a cafeteria lunch. In college, I worked as a receptionist during lunch hours and had to eat at my desk before rushing off to my next class. After college, I moved to the city and was trying to pay bills, have a social life and the latest fashions on a low, entry-level journalist salary — packing my lunch helped me stay afloat and continue to save for emergencies and our future home (and kept my closet full of miniskirts).

These days I workout during my lunch break, and thinking of my packed lunch waiting for me is what gets me through it. My closest friends and family know I preach this (and know I have no place giving financial advice), but I think bringing your lunch is a financial and health game changer. You don't have to grab pricey takeout or bring boring leftovers hoping they reheat OK. There are so many cheap and delicious meals you can pack that take 10 minutes or less to prepare the night before. And, you save so much money. I can typically make Brian and myself six breakfasts, six lunches and six dinners for $80 a week. And it only takes me a few minutes to prepare our lunches for the next day after dinner. Even if it only saves us a couple hundred dollars throughout the year, that's a vacation (at the sacrifice of nothing because getting to eat this leftover chickpea stew at work tomorrow is a luxury).

Of course, this isn't for everyone (sometimes Brian just needs that Chipotle burrito), and I often eat dinner out with friends (I have four social after-work commitments next week), but over the years I've tried to limit my eating out to places I want to try, with people I want to see, instead of wasting money and time on something I could prepare just as well, if not better, at home.

This year I'm improving my work lunch game with a SoYoung lunch poche, which fits all the essentials, with room for a drink and extra snacks. It's fully lined, with a removable insert for easy cleaning and a shoulder strap for easy carrying. I love that SoYoung is a woman-owned company (you can find the founder's amazing story here) and that every SoYoung product is made with the hope that it helps people embrace a little bit more wellness in their lives.

Do you bring your lunch to work? What do you pack? I swear by leftovers and always have a few options in the freezer to choose from to keep things at least a little exciting, but Brian takes the same peanut butter sandwich, on the same bread, with the same crackers, cookies, yogurt and fruit every day. In case you're not convinced to bring your lunch more often this year (I get it, sometimes a Potbelly cookie is the only thing that keeps me going from 2-5), any other finance/health tips/goals for 2019? I'm all ears.

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