Bits and Pieces

Monday, April 24, 2017

The past month has been such a joy. Despite Brian working a ton and my leg still hurting so bad it's all I can focus on (/talk about), I feel we've truly been making the most (ha!) of every moment outside of the office, even if it just means relaxing on the couch, switching between Amy Schumer stand-up specials and this weird show Brian's into. We've been stretching our weekends longer by seeing friends or going on a date on Friday nights, and for the past few weeks, spending most of the weekend with family. This Saturday we hosted our parents and siblings for brunch (among the menu was this, this, and Brian made the yummiest strata and a couple homemade ice creams), and it was so nice to have everyone together in our home. 

We have some exciting plans next month (our housewarming party! a trip to Puerto Rico!), and I'm so excited for warmer weather to become more consistent in Chicago. We have a patio and grill now, and I'm thinking of buying a new bike, so this might be our best summer yet :)

Bits and pieces of life lately below. xo!

My Favorite Granola

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

There's a running joke between a group of my old coworkers and me about eating our lunch way before lunchtime (like, sometimes, on the way to work...). When we worked together we'd push each other to make it to 11 (eh, 10:55), and now that we're all at different companies, we start the text thread when we need reinforcements (although lately it's not working that well — last week Kaitlin said "girl, in some parts of the world chicken fried rice is breakfast!").

So, anyway, lunch. Look forward to it, never miss it. In an attempt to eat it a little later, I decided to start drinking more water, since I often hear that when you think you're hungry, you're actually thirsty. Nope. I'm hungry. So now, in hopes of holding myself over longer, I've been eating heartier breakfasts. That is to say, this granola rocks. It's full of simple, healthy ingredients (most of which we always have on hand), and keeps me full for hours (also, it's so delicious). Even Brian, who typically refuses breakfast, is super into it (my words, but his sentiments!) in parfaits (with our homemade jam ;) I've made a few granola recipes before, but after making a few batches of this one, I think it's by far the best yet.

2 3/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon kosher salt (*I personally think this is far too much, half will suffice) 
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup dried sour cherries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, pistachios, coconut, pumpkin seeds and salt.

In a small saucepan set over low heat, warm the sugar, syrup and olive oil until the sugar has just dissolved, then remove from heat. Fold liquids into the mixture of oats, making sure to coat the dry ingredients well.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread granola over it. Bake until dry and lightly golden, 35-40 minutes, stirring granola a few times along the way.

Remove granola from the oven, and mix into it the dried sour cherries. Allow to cool to room temperature before transferring to a storage container. Makes about six cups.

The Great Pizza Taste Test

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

After years of disagreeing on the best fast food pizza, like, weekly (him: die hard Domino's, me: Pizza hut (with Papa John's garlic sauce ;) we decided to do a very scientific experiment to find out what's truly best. We ordered three of the same pizzas (same crust, sauce, toppings) from three different places (Papa John's, Pizza Hut, Domino's) and critiqued each one slowly, meticulously. The result? He still thinks Domino's is No. 1, and I think Pizza Hut (with Papa John's garlic sauce!). So there's that. We can't say we haven't tried convincing each other. Or that we're giving up.

Side note! The Big Little Lies finale rocked, and this season of Girls is killing it. Love, love, loved Aidy Bryant's scenes in the latest episode! Beautiful and hilarious.

I Ran an 8K!

Monday, April 3, 2017

I'm starting to get into running.

No one is more shocked than I am. I have been a lifelong why-would-you-run-when-you-can-walk, not-one-single-second-of-this-is-enjoyable, kind of person (proof). But somehow, a few months ago, in an attempt to better appreciate my body while pushing it a bit, I started walking with a bounce for a couple of miles, a couple of times a week, and calling it running. I love that it only takes half an hour, and it's kind of an anxiety killer (a big bonus).

But sadly, I strained a muscle badly a week and a half ago (not even running, I don't know how it happened!). I could barely walk to my train station last week and had to stay home from work. Then yesterday I (regrettably) ran a race with some friends (my first 8k race!), so I'm truly hurting more than I ever have before. It took me nearly 10 minutes to get my socks on this morning! Woof.

It's strange, after sitting it out a week now (well, except the race ;), I miss it. I want to be out there, running my 3-mile route in our neighborhood, past people walking their dogs and strolling with their families. While I'm not very good at it, and look silly doing it, I'm really enjoying trying something new and learning from Brian.

I'd love ANY running advice (What do you wear? Listen to? How do you track your running? Set goals? I have no idea what I'm doing and am all ears!)

Hoping for a speedy recovery! xo

The Easiest Berry Chia Jam

Friday, March 31, 2017

Here's TMI for ya — a few months before our wedding I started having the worst stomach cramps, and I was so bloated. I constantly looked a good five months pregnant. I like to avoid the doctor's office at all costs, but eventually I felt I had no choice. 

The doctor suggested I switch up my diet and follow a specific one she recommended, and keep a food diary so we could narrow down the issue. It helped tremendously, and part of the reason is because I knew exactly what I was eating. For the first time, I was reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists. It turned out simple things (like the jam I had been eating for years) had ingredients that were triggering my sensitivity. Since then, I've been trying to have a batch of homemade staples on hand (like this berry chia jam), so I can make smarter food decisions without sacrificing taste or time. This jam couldn't be easier to make, and it's absolutely delicious. I've been having it with this coconut cashew butter on toast in the morning on weekends and in parfaits I make to take to work on weekdays. It's so yummy (and good for you!)!

Ingredients (makes two jars): 
10-12 ounces (around 2 1/2 cups) frozen raspberries 
10-12 ounces (around 2 1/4 cups) frozen blueberries 
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 tablespoons orange juice (about 1/2 medium orange, juiced) 
Up to 4 tablespoons maple syrup (optional), to taste 

In a medium mixing bowl, combine frozen raspberries and blueberries, chia seeds and orange juice. Cover and let the mixture defrost for about three hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. 

Once the berries are defrosted and soft, use a potato masher to mash up the mixture to your desired consistency. I like some texture in my jam, so I don't mash it much.

Taste, and if you'd like a sweeter jam, stir in some maple syrup to taste (keep in mind that you can always just drizzle maple syrup or honey onto your jam later, if you prefer). If the chia seeds aren't nice and plump yet, let the mixture rest for about 20 minutes to let them absorb some more moisture. 

Store leftover jam in the refrigerator, covered, for about 1 week. We use these jars.

My Name (And a Giveaway!!!!!!!!!!)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A few months ago my brother and I were playing some sort of game, something with questions. I don't remember the details, but I begged him to stop asking difficult ones and focus on something simple. "OK," he said. "What's your name?" Then we both laughed. Because ... what is my name?

For as long as I remember (before boyfriends, before middle school, quite frankly) I was adamant about not changing my last name if I were to get married. A decision my father firmly supported ;) It's my identity! I'm proud of my name! I love my immediate family! As years went on, and I became a magazine writer, my byline became my badge. I remember the first time I saw Ladan Nikravan in the masthead of a magazine. It gave me such a thrill! On top of that, I was dating ... well ... white guys. As someone who's 100% Iranian (and to know Iranians is to know they're all 150% Iranian, really), I just couldn't wrap my head around one day being a Hayes.

Then we got engaged, and suddenly headstrong me was confused on what I wanted to do. Part of me loved the tradition of a family name, and the traditional part of that tradition — I didn't want Brian to change his name. Brian expressed his views while comforting me with the fact that any decision made would of course be my choice, that I had time, and that I can always change my mind. I spoke to my parents and my closest girlfriends (an even mix of last name changers and maiden name keepers), but still, I was stuck.

We got married, bought an apartment, went on some adventures, and I came up with excuses to make my final decision ("Well my ticket's already under my maiden name," "It'll confuse the bank and slow down the process if I change my name now!" "Quite frankly, I don't have the time for this!"). We delayed other processes (dealing with finances, for example) until I could make a firm decision beyond changing my Facebook name to see if I liked how it looked.

And then life slowed down a bit. And so I thought. And thought, and thought. I feel like a decision that came so easily to others has been the most difficult for me ever. Ultimately I decided we had to do what's best for us, individually and together, and no Internet forums, friends or family could help with that.

So here's what I've decided! I'll be legally changing my last name in April (and I'm excited about it :). The idea of the two of us, and any future children, having the same team name makes my heart swell. And, despite my previous worries, it doesn't feel like a sacrifice of my identity or values. I want to be a Hayes. In exchange (which feels strange to type, because truly, this is a decision I came to on my own, for myself, and doesn't feel like I'm owed), any future children will have Iranian first names. I'll be changing my middle name to my maiden name (I don't have a middle name right now) and keeping my maiden name as my last name for all work-related things. It's all a little wonky, but it works for us. And having it figured out and feeling comfortable about it feels so good.

So now, of course, I'm obsessed with the idea of monogramming things for the first time in my life (my sister got me the cutest necklace with my new initials, and Brian got me this robe), and get so smiley when hotel attendants and restaurant hosts call me Mrs. Hayes (Mrs.! Ha!). I've been scribbling a new signature and love the new stationary I was sent from Clementine Studio (seeing my new name in beautiful print, I was like, YEP!:)

Lovely Carly from Clementine Studio is giving one lucky reader a stack of their own personalized stationary cards (without a year long identity crisis before it, lucky you!). Enter below (and check out all of her amazing work, I'm obsessed with her wedding stuff)! The giveaway will close on Friday, April 28. One randomly selected winner will be notified by email. Good luck! And thanks for reading that mumbo jumbo. It feels good to have it on paper. Or something similar ;)

I'd LOVE to know: Will (or would, or did) you change your last name after getting married? How did you decide? Thoughts on hyphenating? One of the ideas we played around with was me keeping my maiden name, Brian keeping his last name, but hyphenating any future children's last names to Nikravan-Hayes.

San José del Cabo, Mexico!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A few weeks ago we went to San José del Cabo and stayed at an all inclusive resort. It was our first time taking this type of trip and the absolute best time (we kept joking that we're forever done staying at tiiiiiiny Airbnbs, but yeah right ;). I was awarded the trip through work (and some of my friends at work were, too!), and we were spoiled rotten — fancy gifts and receptions every night, a mix of adventures and poolside lounging during the days, an absurd amount of food and cocktails. When we came back we joked that we'd gotten so used to it, we'd expect it to continue at home. We saw my family the night we landed so we could celebrate the Iranian New Year together the next day, and my cutie parents sent us home with lots of food and New Year gifts, so the pampering did last a long time :)

We didn't take our big camera (but did take our little instant one), so we mostly relied on our iPhones for photos. And even those we left behind more often than not (I now wish I had photographed every bit of the breakfast buffet I miss with all my heart). But still, a few photos below! If you find yourself in Cabo, we can't recommend kayaking to the arch enough (and I'm sure snorkeling is cool, but the water was freezing, so we backed out last minute :)

My Love.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I love this man so much. For so many reasons. Like, for not letting racism and sexism and xenophobia rule the day. For not being fooled into complacency. For doing so much incredible work and always being brave. For being an ally to people far more marginalized than we are. I'm a lucky girl.

Our Gallery Wall With Framed & Matted

Monday, March 13, 2017

When we moved in November, I was worried I'd miss our old apartment terribly. I'm intensely nostalgic, and since it was our first home together (a little apartment I loved), and we weren't planning on moving, I figured I'd be overcome with emotions once we shut the door one last time. But on our last night (exhausted, full of questionable Taco Bell), I was nothing but excited. And when we went to clean the place and hand over the keys the next day, I practically threw them at the landlord, thrilled to be moving into a place we'll make our own. A place we can paint! A place with hallways (an architect friend recently pointed out the importance of a good hallway to me, and after living in our one bedroom without any, I can't praise hallways enough)! A place we'll make memories and messes for quite some time, I hope.

We didn't bring nearly any of our furniture with us. Most of it was a mix of mismatched, broken, cheap finds from when we moved to the city six (!) years ago, hand-me-downs and my beloved dumpster finds (a habit Brian has been asking me to break with each of my moves); and we were able to sell other things on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and at our garage sale (we donated everything we made from all our hustling efforts to the ACLU and NIAC). I was excited to start with a blank canvas in every room, but with much more space than before, stumped on where to start. And especially on how to decorate. 

Slowly we started buying furniture (there isn't a console table on the Internet I haven't seen) but neglected the walls. We got them painted right after we moved in, so unless something proved itself worthy of ruining our hole-less, clean, (painting-is-expensive), walls, we weren't in a rush to make any moves. Deep down I've always wanted a gallery wall. But again, it'd have to be worth it, and I didn't have any ideas. 

When Framed & Matted reached out in the new year to see if we'd like help tackling the bareness, Brian and I jumped on the opportunity because we finally had an idea we'd been waiting to execute!!! What if we framed photos of our parents and grandparents (the most important people in the world to us, our biggest source of inspiration and our greatest supporters) at the same life stage as we are now — recently married, childless, young, very naive and very in love :)? Did these photos even exist? Brian's dad's parents didn't take many photographs (they didn't even take any at their wedding!), and mine live in Australia and Iran, and have moved around a lot — we weren't sure how we'd get the prints and if they knew where they were. 

But thanks to our mothers, aunts, uncles and cousins, we got everything we needed. And thanks to Framed & Matted we have a wall filled with beautifully framed images that make us happy to see every single day. 

The process was so easy. We gathered the prints (we had them printed in a variety of sizes at Costco and Central Camera Company) and then chose the frames after we laid everything out. There are five colors to choose from, multiple frames in each of those colors, and dozens of mat colors (you can single or double mat!). Since you're custom framing (for a non-custom framing price), you can pick the exact size of the frame and mat(s). It's all so personal, and since we were working with such special images, the whole process felt so intimate.

While the frames were being built (they're shipped within three days, to your doorstep in less than a week), we mocked everything up with painter's tape on the wall. Once the frames came, though, we scrapped that idea and started arranging and rearranging and rearranging again on the floor. Gallery walls are no joke! It felt kind of daunting to start. Those Pinterest beauties deserve awards.


I love, love, love how it all turned out. I think it's my favorite part of the whole place. The room feels so much cozier, and it's such a nice reminder of what matters most to see those faces daily. A million bajillion thank yous to Framed & Matted for partnering with us to help get this done. We love it so much! 

You can see all of their beautiful frames here, and don't forget Mother's day is coming up — the perfect occasion to get photos off our phones and cameras and into frames! 

P.S. If you're interested in trying them out, use the code MAKETHEMOST10 to receive $10 off your first order through April 1st!

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

Bits and Pieces

Friday, March 10, 2017

I haven't been very good at this blogging thing lately. Truthfully, I haven't been good at much of anything lately. The same to-dos have been moving over week after week, and I've neglected so much I wanted to make a priority in 2017. That said, I've been in full homebody mode — we've finally got all of our frames hung, our closets organized, our storage somewhat under control. After a pretty chaotic 2016, I'm really enjoying the opportunity to just breathe and enjoy some relaxation time.

We're heading to Mexico next week, and I'm excited to cap off lazy fest with some sunshine and drinks poolside. I've got some plans to get myself into gear when we return, and I'm hoping posting on the blog will keep me accountable.

Bits and pieces of life lately below. xo!