Year Two

Monday, June 18, 2018

Today marks two years of being married to this incredible man. We’ve jam-packed so much into these past two years that sometimes it feels like we’ve surely been married for more, while other times it feels like it was just yesterday that I was anxiously sitting in a Barnes and Noble cafe, waiting for an almost-stranger to finish class so we could hang out for the first time (but that was eight years ago!). Thank you for loving me, Brian Hayes, through my good times and my terrible times and all the times in-between. Thank you for always putting us first. You're a really special person, and I'm so happy you're mine.

To celebrate year two we're sharing a small glimpse into our lives with a few questions we both answered separately (just like year one!). Responses below! I love you so much, B xo

1. Three words that best describe your marriage at this point? 

L: Supportive, nurturing, fun

B: Fun, loving, loyal

2. What's your best memory from the past year?

L: While there were some major highs this year (surprising Brian at O’Hare with an Arsenal game in London, trips to Croatia and Japan, seeing my favorite band and favorite comedian, to name a few), when I look back, my best memories are from the simplest nights. It’s a common occurrence for us to have one glass of wine too many when relaxing on a Friday night with friends, come home and blast some throwback Kanye songs and laugh about silly things for an extra couple of hours (or, sometimes, argue about things like education reform). We say we regret staying up so late in the morning, but those are some of the happiest moments of my life. I can’t believe I get to have a sleepover with my best friend every night and that it doesn’t stop being fun.

B: It's pretty hard to top a lot of the moments from the surprise birthday trip to London/Amsterdam. Getting surprised by friends and family along the way really was amazing and will always be so special to me. It was such an amazing trip and all the hard work that went into it really meant a lot to me.

3. What have you grown to appreciate about the other that you didn't necessarily love at the beginning? 

L: When we first started dating, it used to stress me out how long it took Brian to answer questions or make a decision. We took a LOT of road trips in our first few years together, and I’d often ask questions like, “Would you rather be lost in a desert or at sea?” and it felt like he wouldn’t respond for HOURS. I remember telling a friend that I feel I can’t let him decide where to eat, or that I need to ask him hours before or I’ll die from starvation. Eight years later, I think B makes decisions faster, but I’ve also come to appreciate the thoughtfulness in his responses. As someone who talks too much, too fast, too often, it’s really nice that he puts thought into every single one of his words and actions. It’s why so many people trust him, ask for his advice and why we always eat our best meals when he chooses.

B: I'm having a really hard time with this question. Maybe her willingness to fight for things. I'm typically non-confrontational and more likely to let something go, while she isn't afraid to tell someone when she's aggrieved. I think at the beginning of our relationship I didn't understand why she would bother getting worked up about what I perceived as little things. Now, I enjoy seeing her fight for herself and share her stories of victory with Grandma Hayes (who's also always willing to fight the good fight).

4. What's your favorite thing about the other?

L: He’s the most giving, generous person I know.

B: Her passion and commitment. When she loves something, she really loves it, and when she decides to do something, she is determined to do it no matter how hard it is or how much work it takes. She's so dedicated and works so hard to achieve her goals, whether little or small. Once she has a task, a goal, or a want on her list she won't stop until it's been achieved.

5. What’s a guaranteed way to make the other happy after a terrible day?

L: Pizza, beer and a sports game/video game go a long way for Brian. But, surprisingly, so does a chill night with friends. People expect me to be extroverted and for B to be introverted, but it’s the opposite. As long as we haven’t had a marathon few days of social engagements, he gets his energy from those close to him (and I get it from the Real Housewives).

B: Back scratches while lying down somewhere comfortable. I'm not sure it's a guaranteed way to always make her happy per se, but it helps relax and remove some of the stress after a long day. This is so embarrassing, guys! Makes me sound like a pet, haha! 

6. What is the most difficult part of marriage in general?

L: I think the hardest thing about marriage is knowing that most of your disagreements will all, more or less, look the same. For us, that comes down to different sources of anxiety and not always communicating effectively. I once told this to a friend who said, "Oh definitely. My husband and I have been having the same fight for the past three years...and that will most likely be the case for the rest of our lives." In some ways it's frustrating to feel like you're on a bit of a hamster wheel of sorts when it comes to disagreements, but also comforting to know that everyone deals with the same thing.

B: One thing that can be challenging is balancing our lives. I think we both have a tendency to want to "do it all" sometimes, whether it be with our friends, families, doing things with people separately, or having time alone, and then we also want to have time together with just each other. We do okay managing it, but sometimes it can be hard to say "enough" and just set time aside for us to have those days or nights where we do nothing together.

7. Describe your proudest moment(s) of one another - a time when you thought, “that’s why I am married to you."

L: The week after the inauguration last year, when the country and our household needed a boost in optimism, Brian asked me if it was OK if we donated $1,000 to the ACLU and the National Iranian American Council and shared with our family and friends why he did and supports others to do the same. It brought me to tears. It’s a true symbol of how generous he is and how passionate he is about his beliefs (and has made my fights his fights). Similarly, after my grandma passed last year, our family was worried about how we’d maintain the interest free bank she had created for family and close friends. To keep it going, I asked him if he minded if I donated my recent bonus to the cause. He encouraged me to do it and tell my family in Iran they could count on it yearly.

B: Simply the way she embraces family — whether it be the two of us, my family or hers. She cares so deeply for all of those people and would do anything for them, and it makes me so proud. It's definitely one of the things that makes me feel so close to her.

8. What are the biggest changes you've seen in yourself?

L: This isn’t unique to this year, it’s more encompassing of the past few years, but I think I finally am myself. I’m more at ease and comfortable in my own skin than I have ever been, and I definitely have Brian to thank for that.

B: This is probably a better question for her to answer about me! I don't know. I don't feel like I've changed too much in the last two years. My Farsi skills are better than they were two years ago!

9. Advice for spending two years with someone?

L: Appreciate the little things, about life and each other. When you notice and acknowledge them, whether it's in the form of a compliment or thanking someone for doing the dishes, each person feels good about themselves.

B: Just enjoy it and cherish it, whether it's been two years or 60. Life can change so much so fast, and one of the things I try to do is simply appreciate and enjoy what I've been given in life. I'm not always the best at that, but it helps refocus me sometimes, and I think remembering that perspective helps me be a better husband.

10. What are you most looking forward to for year three?

L: I have a feeling year three will be a big one for us. Something unique about our relationship for me is that we’ve always talked about the future, even when we had just started dating. In the past, I’d always let my mind race about where a relationship was heading but never vocalized it. From day one, B and I talked openly about our goals and dreams as a couple (which was strange because I wasn’t keen on even jumping into a relationship but felt oddly comfortable discussing where we might be in our 50s with a stranger). I was cleaning out my email inbox the other day and saw that Brian sent me an email about a vacation deal for five days in Waikiki a few weeks into dating — we obviously didn’t go, but I read the thread and it was such a natural conversation about wanting to travel together in the future. While many of our goals have already come to life (not Hawaii, though!), I think this year will be the start of a few more, personally and professionally.

B: At the moment, I think I'd have to say our upcoming trip to Australia this fall, but who knows! Every year has been filled with so many great memories, it's already crazy to me to look back and see how much we've done together. So, I'm sure there will be lots to look forward to.

P.S. You can see all of our wedding and honeymoon photos here!

The Best Summer Eats and Activities in Chicago

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


Oh, Chicago. Just as I’m starting to wonder why I live in this frozen Midwestern tundra, you gift us with gorgeous sunshine, warm breezes coming off the lake, and a whole array of things to do. Chicago really comes alive in the spring and summer, and you can tell how happy it makes everyone. It’s almost like we live in two different cities — our reward for making it through December-February is this amazing, vibrant Summertime Chi. There’s pretty much an endless number of summer activities in Chicago, each one just so much fun. These are a few of the activities I look forward to most, but I’d love for this list to be collaborative — let me know what your favorites are, and I’ll add them to the list!

Outdoor bars and restaurants:
Parson’s Chicken and Fish
Sportsman’s Club
The Dawson
Cindy’s at the Chicago Athletic Association
Summer House Santa Monica
RM Champagne
Big Star
J.Parker at Hotel Lincoln

Favorite coffee/bakeries for a quick snack:
Elaine’s Coffee Call
Heritage Bicycles
Sweet Mandy B’s
*My favorite candy store, my favorite donut shop, my favorite ice cream 

Favorite breakfast/brunch:
Bang Bang Pie
Kanela Breakfast Club
The Publican
Little Goat
The Gage
Big Jones
Ann Sather {AMAZING cinnamon roles}
Southport Grocery

Favorite lunch/dinner:
Le Colonial
Shake Shack
Big Star
Girl and the Goat
Au Cheval {be prepared for a long wait}
Tango Sur
RPM Italian/RPM Steak
Stella Barra
Hot Chocolate
North Pond
Piccolo Sogno

Things to do in the city: 
Green City Market {my absolute favorite}
(FREE!) Movies and concerts in Millenium Park
Kayaking on the Chicago River
... or drinking wine on the Chicago River {more my style ;)
Cubs game at Wrigley Field {or White Sox!}
Join a Social Sports League
Bike along Lake Michigan 
Lincoln Park Zoo
Architectural Boat Tour
Windy City Smokeout
Rent a Divvy, pack a picnic and hang out in Museum Park
Visit a brewery {LOTS of great options!}

Places to shop:
Michigan Avenue for all of the big box department stores/retailers.
Oak and Rush Street – shop high end brands, Barney’s NY, Scoop NYC, Calypso St. Barth, Sandro, Maje, Vince, Tory Burch, Madewell, Ted Baker + Kate Spade New York
Damen Avenue in Bucktown – shop favorites like Intermix, Club Monaco, Cynthia Rowley, Steven Alan + Marc Jacobs
Southport Corridor in Lakeview – shop local boutiques, Anthropologie, Lou & Grey, Free People + Blue Mercury

Things to do outside the city: 
Indiana Dunes
Starved Rock State Park
Galena, Illinois 
Chicago Botanical Gardens
Frank Lloyd Wright Tour in Oak Park
Michigan or Wisconsin {so many cute lakeside towns!}

A note on my dress! It's a gift from Bianca Bellatoni, the founder of Bellatoni, a sustainable and cruelty-clothing label based in Vancouver. Bianca's collections offer a beautiful balance of unique yet classic cuts and silhouettes with a color palette that appeals to both color and non-color-lovers alike. I have my eye on these classic cropped pants ;) Check out Bianca's shop and her mission. She's making great changes in the fashion industry — all garments are made in house, and only fabrics that have little impact on the environment are used for production. All fabric scraps are kept and reused to make pet beds, which are then donated to local animal shelters. Bravo, Bianca!

P.S. Bellatoni is offering readers 10% off with code MAKETHEMOST. Offer ends 7/4/2018.

Armin Graduates High School...!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Our weekends have been full of celebrations lately, which we don't mind one bit. Last weekend we drove to Ohio for a surprise 30th birthday party and back home the next day for my little brother's high school graduation ceremony. I've gushed about this sweet, smart and unbelievably funny teenager enough for you to know how I feel about him and understand how excited I am that he's going to college 17 minutes away from our apartment :)

The tradition lives on! In four years he'll be graduating undergrad and my sister with her doctorate. Can't wait to see those pictures and see what will change in a few short years. 

My parents are the complete opposite of hoarders and tend to throw everything that doesn't serve a purpose away. We joke that if they had to move in a hurry, they could completely pack up their five bedroom house in a few days. But I'm so glad our graduation signs have made the cut, even if only for this picture and if I know they'll be gone next time we're home.

And that's that! Congratulations, Armin!!!!!!!!! We love you so much and are so proud of the young man you've become <3 

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?). We're on the road again this afternoon and have my little brother's high school graduation later this weekend (WHAT? HOW?). 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