Bits and Pieces

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Brian and I have taken turns being sick every week for the past month-plus. We just can't shake it off! In the past, I would have pushed through deadlines and dinners I had scheduled, but I'm realizing the importance of slowing down, so I've been laying low most of the week. Besides the fact that it helps kick the sickness much quicker (until it comes back again a week later, ha!), it's a nice to reminder that it's OK to give myself a break every now and again. I want to lean into all the comfort foods this weekend (is it just me or is eating healthily when you're feeling under-the-weather so unappealing?) and am looking forward to catching up on neglected shows. Also, our apartment building is having an Oktoberfest party on our patio on Saturday, and mostly I want to feel better to take full advantage of all the yummy things at that! ;)

Below are some iPhone pics from recent moments if you care to see! Hope you're having a good week and not buried in Kleenex like me <3

On Saturday Night...

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

... we saw Jim Gaffigan perform at the Chicago Theatre, and it was hilarious of course. We had gotten tickets in the spring, so we had been anxiously awaiting October 14 for a long time! We really love that guy. But what's not to love when he's cracking jokes all night about big families, hating the gym and can spend 30 minutes straight just on the topic of McDonald's alone? A comedian right up our alley ;) I mean, you've seen this, right? So good.

Kyoto, Japan!

Friday, October 13, 2017

I'm excited to share the last of our Japan photos! More than a few from our five days in Kyoto :) We had such a wonderful time here. In fact, two of our friends are hoping to go to Japan next November, but only to Tokyo. When we found out we insisted they also go to Kyoto. It has a magical way of making you feel like you're stepping back in time. Everything is so traditional and full of history. It was kind of refreshing to get out of Tokyo (which we LOVED and does have beautiful gardens and parks we didn't have time for) and into some nature. 

B's 5-Ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

How are you feeling these days? Have the past 10 months felt especially heavy for you, or is it just me?

Part of me wakes up every morning thinking I don't have another Facebook comment rant in me, but the other half just wants to rage to random strangers on the street on a daily basis (HOW. DO. YOU. NOT. GET. IT?????? Even worse, how do our LEADERS not?). The past few months have felt particularly terrible: devastating earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, Charlottesville, Barcelona, Las Vegas. But we spent Monday night in a room filled with 4,000 people that think like us, and I feel re-energized, hopeful about the work that can still be done.

I wish I could give everyone a hug, really. A solidarity hug. Because we're dealing with a lot of shit (I can't think of a better way to put it). But if I can't give you a hug, I wish I could give you one of Brian's peanut butter bars because they do make things better. And if I can't do that, I'll at least share the recipe because they're easy to make and you need one (or four) in your life (the chef literally cut me off last Friday, whoops). They're simple and insanely delicious. In fact, a quick cure for the state of our nation (until you check your phone and see the latest news): a glass of (lactose-free ;) milk, a pan of these bars and cozying up next to a warm fire and watching This Is Us.

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 1/2 cups, plus 4 tbsp creamy peanut butter, divided
1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick), softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 cups powdered sugar (B only uses 1)

Line an 8x8-inch square brownie pan with parchment paper.

Place 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons of the peanut butter in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring often until melted and smooth. Alternatively, you can do this in the microwave on 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan and tap against the counter until the chocolate is in a smooth and even layer. Cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to harden.

Meanwhile, add the stick of softened butter, 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 cup powdered sugar into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until smooth and creamy. Taste and add more powdered sugar to your liking.

Spoon the peanut butter mixture over the chocolate layer into a smooth layer. Place back in the fridge.

Place the remaining 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips and remaining 2 tablespoons peanut butter in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring often until melted and smooth. Again, alternatively, you can do this in the microwave in 30-second intervals.

Pour the chocolate mixture over the peanut butter layer, smooth the chocolate out into an even layer. Cover and place in the fridge for 1-2 hours or until ready to serve. Slice into bars and keep refrigerated.

Our Honeymoon Video!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Even though we got back a year ago this week, we just wrapped up our honeymoon video (and by "we" I mean B made the whole thing), and I'm excited to share it! After all the ups and downs of wedding planning, and giddy excitement that surrounded the big day, our honeymoon was finally a chance to straight chill, and watching this over and over again I'm reminded of how fun that chilling was and how perfect everything felt. We went to France and Greece, and I think I'll daydream about it for decades to come. Check out the video if you like :)

P.S. You can see all of our honeymoon photos here. Gosh, scrolling through makes me remember how blissful those two weeks were <3


Monday, October 9, 2017


I go back and forth on how much I want to share here and what I want to focus on (and on whether to even keep this little blog more often than you can imagine), but I've ultimately decided to keep it a positive space, a place to focus on what I am blessed with rather than what I do not have or what I am struggling with. It helps me find joy in my day-to-day, even though of course there are terrible days and things that are disorienting, emotional and hard to navigate.

It's funny, I think that while we know social media and blogs don't show everything, we forget sometimes when scrolling through our feeds. Does everyone know how to cook chicken? Does no one else bicker with their husband? Is everyone always on vacation in Portugal? And then you snap out of it and realize that everyone has their struggles. Everyone. Behind the scenes there are career challenges, breakups, depression, anxiety, illness, financial difficulties, loss, loneliness, awkwardness, period cramps ... and that's OK. It's comforting, really. Like we're all in this together.

Anyway, I'm not sure if this is the forum for me to share about my specific struggles or if I'm strong enough to lay it all out (vacation recaps are just so much easier), but Brian and I ran a 5K for mental health awareness on Saturday, and since this is an important cause to me, I wanted to share this: Mental illnesses are illnesses, and no less real or medical for their categorization as a "mental" illness. They're not made up, not all in your head; Their symptoms are real and their manifestations can be physical as much as behavioral. So if you think you've got one, go talk to your doctor. Ask for help. See a therapist. Don't let the stigma of mental illnesses stop you from doing what you need to do to feel better.

Also, sidenote, Brian (with a stomach bug, no less!) placed fifth overall and first in his age group. It was a little race, but I was happy to get third for mine ;) This was my first real run since my injury seven months ago, and I'm so relieved to be feeling nearly normal again. It was such a frustrating time, and I'm hoping some of the things I've learned can help prevent it from happening again. Like every year after the Chicago Marathon, I'm inspired to taking running more seriously and run longer distances (like five miles, ha!), we'll see if that lasts ;)

Have a great week and be kind to one another xoxo

Last Night ... HAMILTON!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

We saw Hamilton last night, and YES, YES, YES, it really is that good. I totally understand why it's a cultural phenomenon. A billion percent. It surpassed all the hype we'd heard and left us so inspired. The music (mile-a-minute raps!), choreography, just overall amazing performances, it was all perfect. And casting people of color in roles of people who were historically white? Fantastic. Gosh, it's amazing. Thanks for the stellar seats, B <3

Tokyo, Japan!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

We've been back from Japan for more than a week now, but it feels like much longer. So much has hit us hard in our world and the greater world that the trip, and beautiful, surreal Japan, feel too good to have been true. I kept telling Brian, and Japanese people we met (the few that understood English!) didn't oppose it, that Japan feels like a utopia to me — it's unbelievably safe, clean, cultured, sophisticated, beautiful. To no surprise, I didn't want to leave. 

For years now, B and I have talked about how much we wanted to visit Japan, but we thought it had to remain a dream. We were brainstorming trips this past spring when our friends Jessica and Johnny said they were going to Tokyo and Kyoto. We told them how badly we hoped to go one day, and they told us how they found super decently priced tickets. We searched and found the same (thanks J&J!!!)! So we booked it, and I'm so glad we did.

But as soon as we booked, I started to get a bit nervous! I've been far from home before (doesn't get much further than Australia!) and have been to Asia once (Singapore!), but the idea of being so far away in such a bustling, busy city like Tokyo intimidated me. I thought I prefer quaint cafes on cobblestone streets. I knew I'd have to go out of my comfort zone a bit (one friend likened Japan to "visiting a different planet" and I can definitely see that), but I'm so glad I did. Japan exceeded all of my expectations, and we had such an incredible time. Here's a glimpse of some of the things we learned, our favorite moments and what we would have done differently :)

Eat Purely!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

This past Sunday was one of the most relaxing days in months. It was such a treat. I feel like I'm always writing this, and there's a whole "busy" phenomena, but things really have been especially chaotic around here lately. We swore we'd take it easy this summer and fall — we're not planning a wedding! Or moving! Or trying to fill an empty space with the best credenza the Internet can offer, so, we must chill. But chill we have not been. I've picked up extra freelance work and Brian's work deadlines have kept him spending most of his hours, and meals, at his cubicle. Cooking hasn't been top of mind, so the fridge has been especially bare. 

This Sunday, after chilling hard (changed out of pj's at 4pm....) we knew we should go to the grocery store, but we really didn't want to. This spot is delicious and around the corner, so we both mentally hoped the other would suggest it, but after a night of extreme over-indulgence the night before, we both also knew it wasn't the smartest choice. 

So, we decided to try Eat Purely. We've been wanting to for some time since the company reached out, but I've been a bit hesitant because earlier this year I was offered to try another healthy food delivery option, and I did, but I couldn't go through with my contract to promote it. The food was bland, and while the menu was vast, I struggled to find anything I liked all week. 

I wish we hadn't waited so long. Eat Purely was truly the opposite experience. Each day Eat Purely chefs (who are based in Chicago's West Loop) use fresh, seasonal ingredients to create a diverse range of restaurant-quality meals and sides. You download the app and select from a daily rotating menu of locally-sourced meals. You can order on demand or schedule up to a week in advance. Then Eat Purely delivers your meals chilled so everything stays fresh. A few minutes in the oven or microwave and dinner is ready! 

The meals never rely on excess salt, fat or refined sugars and are made without chemicals, preservatives or GMOs. Brian's extremely skeptical when it comes to these types of things (not that they will have GMOs, more so that they won't taste nearly as good as the greasy burger he'd rather have), but he's also hooked. There are very few, if any, companies that are making healthy food taste good while sourcing things in a responsible way. We're so excited to have found a company that does that in Chicago. 

We ordered three meals (squash and truffle rigatoni, BBQ chicken salad and Cuban steak) and two desserts (chocolate chip cookies and dark chocolate pudding). We heated up the steak in the oven for a few minutes and then took everything to the park around the block for a little date night :)

Like, case-in-point: I'm not a salad eater at all. Not only do I never order it, I usually can't get through the whole thing when served to me as a first course, but this BBQ chicken one is a game changer. I think it was my favorite of the three dishes! That or Brian's steak. So, so good. 

These cookies (which we dipped in the pudding like the glutenous geniuses we are) are PHENOMENAL. Delivery's free, so I can seriously see myself ordering just these on a whim all winter. They were some of the best cookies I've ever had. And, again, Brian goes into these types of things extremely skeptical but agreed that these cookies were AMAZING (and finished the pudding I was planning on taking for lunch the next day, but whatever, it's fine). 

I'm hesitant with made to order meals. but Eat Purely is honestly carry out's biggest nightmare. It's affordable, healthy and filling, with only the best quality ingredients. Options change on a daily basis, so there's so much variety. When you're exhausted from a long day or want a quick meal without all the effort of cooking this will not break the bank and can be delivered on your terms. 

If you live or work in Chicago, try it out with $20 off with code MAKETHEMOST. No strings attached, just dinner on B and me :) Download the app and check out this week's meals (scroll up to see the options for each day)! 

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

Family News

Monday, October 2, 2017

I wanted to share some very sad news today. My grandmother (on my mom's side) died from a heart attack recently. With the heaviest of hearts we were forced to say goodbye to one of the most beautiful souls the world has ever known. She touched so many people, and after some time of reflection and recollections of love and laughter, my mind is a little more at peace, but I still feel the need to say something, though nothing I write can do her justice.

For as long as I remember, we'd discuss this day coming, in her presence. We'd joke about how the entire city of Isfahan, Iran, would crumble without her, how she's truly the backbone of everything our family is, does. She was such an extraordinary woman who did extraordinary things. Nearly 20 years ago she started her own "bank" for a few hundred extended family members — a way to borrow money interest free since there are always times when someone is struggling and could use some extra help. She created a board for her organization (three female family members she monitored very closely — her speciality) but managed all the finances and monthly meetings. She managed our world.

Every shop, cab, bank we'd go to in Isfahan, someone knew her. Growing up spending summers in Iran I swore she was famous — when a stranger asked who I was and I said my grandmother's grandchild, they'd light up immediately; at the grocery store they'd tell me not to worry about paying, that they'd just add it to her tab, she was good for it.

She helped put strangers through college, have new clothes for the year, have a birthday party when they couldn't have otherwise. She was a source of spiritual guidance for so many. For her own siblings, children and grandchildren she was everything. And to her, they were everything. Despite not being well, she made the 24-hour journey to attend our wedding last summer, and while feeling she should be close to her doctors at home, she stayed in the U.S., by herself, for months after the wedding so my mom wouldn't have to be alone. Despite not having much of her own to give, her gifts were always beyond generous, and while she was always thousands of miles away from me and my siblings on holidays and monumental occasions, we were never, ever forgotten. I've never known and will never know someone more selfless, more kind.

My favorite thing about her, which my dad wrote in a tribute that was read at her funeral, is how intelligent and opinionated she was and yet still so respectful to others' beliefs, never letting differences come between her and others, whether it be strangers or those she loved. A strong Muslim, she prayed five times a day. When she visited us, my dad, not religious himself, often challenged her on why she did this, why she was getting up to go upstairs and recite the same thing when her weak legs made the chore so difficult. She'd smile and explain why she had to, while assuring him that she respected his decision to stay downstairs.

She also happened to be visiting us when I went on my first date with Brian, a concept that isn't very common in Iran. I remember coming home and telling her about it, and when Brian texted me when he got home, showing her the texts. We dissected them together, and as my relationship with Brian began to develop in the following weeks, she'd impart wisdom I was too naive and stubborn to believe (she was right, of course, about it all).

For a series of reasons, Brian is the one that broke the news to me that she had passed. Before he did, I saw him crying as I approached him. After we sobbed together, I turned to him between gasps for air and jokingly said, "But you barely knew her!" because B never, ever cries. He said, "She was that good." She really was. Love you forever, Maman Mali <3