Master Shabz!

Friday, May 25, 2018

It's officially that time of the year where weeks start to blur, and weekends are jam-packed and go by in a flash (but remember how slowwwww January-April felt?). I love this time of the year, the milestones we're celebrating and the people we're spending them with. Driving to work this morning, I had my body flung out the window screaming "I LOVE SUMMER" because I do. So much. 

We spent last weekend in Milwaukee celebrating my sister's grad school graduation and toasting her journey as she starts her PhD (!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Super, super smart, talented, all-around-amazing people, these siblings of mine <3 

This pic has become a tradition of sorts, I wonder if my brother will allow it this weekend :) Here's my sister's from her undergrad ceremony. 

We ended the weekend with the most delicious brunch at Bodegon, complete with cocktails and fruity pebble pancakes. I can't get over my mom's style — how her glasses match her earrings, her glowy cheeks, her coral nails. Perfection.

Congratulations, Shabz!!! We couldn't be prouder of the future Dr. Nikravan <3

Video: B's Surprise 30th Birthday Trip!!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Alright, ALRIGHT, I promise this is the last you'll hear of this :) This video was Brian's birthday present from me, and I wanted to share it here, too. It was such a fun trip and I loved planning it (I love doing surprises but don't like them for myself at all. Two years later, we're still talking about my surprise wedding present to B — because that one almost killed us both). So thankful for our family and friends who made the journey and crossing my fingers for a repeat holiday soon :)

P.S. Here are all the photos from the trip!

Happy Birthday, Brian!!!

Monday, May 21, 2018

No one is more tired of hearing about Brian's 30th birthday than Brian (we went on a surprise trip last month and he was sung to three times this weekend), but I love birthdays because it gives me an excuse to gush about the people I love with less eye rolls than usual. So, here we are. And this man, wow do I love him.

It has always been difficult for me to express just how much Brian means to me. A day doesn't go by where I don't ask myself, "How did I get so lucky?" I just don't know anyone else who is as selfless, considerate, generous, thoughtful and loving. From the night we met, he has always shown how good he is (he, a cased-meat averse stranger to me at the time, offered to buy me two hot dogs from the hot dog cart outside the bar that night — does it get sweeter?). I've had some difficult times over the years, and he has never given up on me or left my side. He keeps our lives afloat, never appearing flustered or stressed, the way I do on the daily.

I'm bragging, and you can roll your eyes, but I want him to know I'm so appreciative, and so, so grateful.

Does he annoy me? Daily. Do we have disagreements or frustrations with one another and our life together? Of course. But I'm so thankful that Brian centers his life around family and always brings me back to what matters most.

Thank you, B, for making me feel like the most special person in the world. For always being up for an adventure, near or far, and for loving this city more fiercely than I do (which, I always say, is hard to top). You are the absolute best. Happy birthday (a day late!), my love <3


Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Guys, I kind of messed up Mother's Day. The day before, I went to get my mom an indulgent chocolate cake I knew she'd love, but when I got to the bakery, they only had a single, small slice left. That's OK, plan B, I thought. Brian and I went to get a big bouquet of flowers Sunday morning, only to realize everyone in the Chicago suburbs had the same idea, and there was nothing but wilted baby's breath to buy. Oof!

To not make the same mistake twice, I'm getting ahead of Father's Day and love the idea of giving Mixbook's photo books and acrylic blocks. Our dads are super sentimental, and they'd love a momento from the past year. The process to order is super simple, and I'm thrilled with our how acrylic print turned out — the image is so sharp, and it looks sleek and elegant compared to our typical frames.

For ourselves, I'm excited to make a couple books with scenes from everyday life around Chicago and our recent vacation to London and Amsterdam. I also love their cards, something to keep in mind for the holidays :)

P.S. Mixbook is offering readers 40% off with code MAKETHEMOST. Offer ends 5/31/2018.

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

B's Surprise 30th Birthday Trip!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Its been a few weeks since we got back from a surprise trip to Europe, but I'm still smiling from it :)

If we've spoken in the past year, you've let me (did I give you a choice?) anxiously, giddily, chat with you about a surprise trip I was planning for B's 30th birthday to London for an Arsenal game (his truest love — remember how many games I had to watch on our honeymoon?). He thought he was tagging along on a business trip with me, my boss and my boss' husband to New York since there would be a lot of downtime for me, but instead, I surprised him at O'Hare that we were going to London!

No-Knead Bread

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

While I spent Saturday afternoon at my parents' house, Brian stayed back and played sports and made the yummiest, crustiest homemade bread. We've wanted to do this for years, but since it's a two-day process, we've always come up with an excuse. It was the best surprise to come home to (the whole apartment smelled like a bakery!), and I can't wait for the next loaf — I finished off the last slice with lunch today. B says it's super, super easy (no effort, just time, he says), and I highly recommend <3

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Monkey Goes to Prom!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Hi there! I have so much to share here (like, how we didn't go to New York but went to London and Amsterdam instead! Surprise, B!), but I'm behind on everything, so photos, a video and a million stories to come once the rest of my life has some order :) In the meantime, wanted to share some photos from my little brother going to prom last weekend! Can't believe this cute monkey is going to college in a few months. He's the sweetest little brother, who doesn't care (that much) that his entire family will embarrass him in front of his date and all of his friends <3

Hope you're having a good day, and sending love through the Internet. It's nice to be back. xoxo

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