Anniversary Getaway in Antioch!

Friday, June 23, 2017

I met Brian seven years ago this fall, and I can honestly say my life has never been the same. He changed my life the second he stepped into it, and while I don't think I've ever shared stories of when we first met (I wasn't in the best place, the poor guy was so patient and asked me to be his girlfriend three times...), I remember knowing instantly that this friendship was something special, and while I wasn't sure what to do about it, I knew I couldn't let it go. There isn't a person I know that doesn't love my husband. He is the most giving, selfless, smart, hilarious, loving, supportive and charismatic person I have ever met. He challenges me every day, pushes me to be a better person, keeps me grounded, brings me back to reality and always reminds me to see the bright side of everything. Most days I can't believe how lucky I am that he is mine, and being his wife has been the greatest gift of my life.

To celebrate our one-year anniversary, we took a little trip to Antioch, Illinois (where we stayed at the coolest cottage), and had the most relaxing time. We roasted marshmallows, paddle-boarded, read in a hammock, ate our wedding cake. It was the perfect little getaway.

How cute is this little place? The inside was adorable, too. There are 10 cottages total, and this is by far the smallest, but we've recently been intrigued by tiny homes so we figured we'd test it out for a weekend. Besides, what's a vacation if not staying in the smallest space possible? :)

As soon as we got there, starving after work, we went to an all-you-can-eat fish fry. I've always wanted to go (going to college in Missouri, they seemed to be a big thing on Fridays), but this one was kind of a disappointment. I think I assumed they'd fry it in front of us? When we got our first plate we thought "who could possibly eat multiple plates?" and then we both did. Our waitress said her friend usually eats 10.

There's truly nothing better on a summer night than a s'more. Or like five. We're going camping in a few weeks and I'm already so pumped for s'mores :)

On Saturday we went out to breakfast (amazing pastries and coffee) and then paddle-boarded all day, which was so much fun. I've never found a sport I liked, but I had so much fun doing this, I can't wait to try it again. 

Then we ate our wedding cake, which was still delicious. Actually, we didn't have a piece at our wedding (the night got ahead of us!), and that's our piece of advice to anyone getting married: EAT. YOUR. CAKE. Maybe it's a metaphor to, like, chill and savor everything, but also, really, don't miss out on the cake. 

I guess all we did was eat sweets. Because that night we went out for burgers and cheesecake. 

The next morning we chilled on the hammock until we had to go home. It was such a relaxing getaway, I can't wait to go back sometime soon and can't recommend the cottage enough.

Thanks for being my best friend, Brian. For prioritizing our relationship and being such a supportive and encouraging teammate. I know we're only a year in, but I'm so excited for all the years to come. We have eternity together and it still doesn't feel like enough time.

Year One

Monday, June 19, 2017

Yesterday, Brian and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. To say this last year has been a beautiful blur would be an understatement. We got married, went on our honeymoon, celebrated the holidays, bought an apartment, began planning a future filled with love and adventure. Looking at our wedding photos makes my heart hurt a little bit ... thinking about how quickly time can pass, how these were the moments we officially started our lives together, reliving the amazing memories from this day/night and the crazy adventure that is ahead for the two of us. I'm so grateful for all of this. Every bit of it.

To celebrate year one I thought it would be fun to share a small glimpse into our lives with a few questions we both answered separately. Responses below! I love you so much, B xo

1. Things the other person can't live without? 

L: Brian can't live without peanut butter, podcasts, whiskey, pepperoni pizza, Arsenal, Twitter and gray T-shirts.

B: Ladz can't live without candy, bad television, falling asleep in the car/on the couch, fun trips, eating slowly at restaurants with outdoor seating.

2. Any favorite traditions?

L: When we first started dating, we'd travel more for work/separately to see friends, and every time one of us was leaving, we'd go out on a dinner date the night before. One of my fondest memories of those days was going to a French restaurant in Lincoln Park (Red Rooster, we miss you!) that we loved (and has since closed) before I went to Florida for work. The waiter gave us a fancy, expensive bottle of wine for next-to-nothing and we were giddy.

B: A tradition we used to have, which we've since let slip, is going out to dinner together the night before one of us is going out of town without the other. We should re-start that!

3. What have you learned in the past year? 

L: To not assume he can read my mind. I used to think I was being chill and easy by not asking for what I wanted, only to get resentful when things didn't go as planned (the epitome of not being chill). I'm a lot more communicative, whether it's about something important or trivial like me wanting B to take out the trash. By asking for what I want, it clears up a lot of confusion and ensures we're on the same page.

B: That you can just buy a house randomly. But more seriously, that you can only do something like that when you are a good team.

4. What about marriage were you not expecting? 

L: We had been living together already when we got married, so I sort of felt like I already had a good understanding of what marriage felt like. It wasn't until our first trip after marriage, going through security/customs together that I realized we're now a family. I think I assumed that term would only be meaningful if we have kids in the future, but I've come to realize how special a family of two is for now.

B: I was surprised and how much I like wearing a ring. It makes me proud to wear because it represents our relationship and Ladan, and those are things I love most.

5. Something you don't see eye-to-eye on?

L: New York City, coconuts, music (more specifically, my love of boy bands), whether sports should exist

B: Coconuts, ideal temperatures, when you can wear shorts comfortably

6. A year out, is there one moment from your wedding that stands out the most? 

L: Our first look was really special, it's hard not to pick that, but for some reason (this feels kind of random!), so was seeing my in-laws after I was dressed. I was so anxious to show my dad and bridesmaids my dress, I knew that would be a special moment, and I knew seeing Brian would be an instant highlight and relieve my nervousness, but I wasn't expecting to feel so overwhelmed and at home when I saw Brian's parents. We were all so happy, and I truly felt like (and have every day since) I was joining their family.

B: Our first look. Seeing Ladan for the first time definitely stands out the most.

7. What's one thing you wish the other person liked more?

L: Eating in bed. It's pretty much my favorite indulgence ever (I ate almost every single meal in bed before we lived together). But I always make such a mess that Brian can't get behind it.

B: Arsenal Football Club :)

8. Habit you love about each other/habit you hate? 

L: I love B's habit of always looking presentable when leaving the house. He won't even go to the grocery store without a quick shower and changing into jeans. I, on the other hand, drag myself out of bed and straight to practically anywhere. My least favorite habit is how he puts his dishes in the sink instead of the dishwasher (which he passes to get to the sink!!!!!!!!!!). I just don't get it.

B: I love that Ladan always texts me goodnight when we aren't together, but I can't stand her exaggerations, which are spreading into my personality!

9. Any bucket list items for year 2?

L: Brian's going to hate this question (he hates the term "bucket list"). But, no. We've decided to have a super chill year this year, and I'm really relieved to not be planning a wedding or moving. Everything feels in place, and I want to take time to enjoy it.

B: It's the year of chill, no!!!!! Also, no bucket lists. I'm not kicking the bucket.

10. One word to sum up the other: 

L (about B): Loyal.
B (about L): Devoted.

11. What's your favorite part about being married to the other? 

L: That we truly love experiencing things together. If I've eaten a great meal, watched an interesting documentary, or heard a funny joke, it's always B that I want to share it with.

B: Always having someone to come home and chill with, or get pizza with, or go on adventures with. That I never get tired of seeing Ladan.

12. Favorite little thing the other regularly does? 

L: Brian brings me a glass of water to bed every single night, without fail. And I usually only take one sip, if that, but he knows I like having it on my bedside table in case. Sometimes he'll be in bed and realize there's no water and get up, and I think it's so endearing, especially because it's an unspoken gesture.

B: Ladan brings me home a surprise treat often. Whether from the grocery store or somewhere else, that kind of little surprise always makes my day.

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

A Beautiful Photo

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My little brother took this photo over the weekend, on a flight lesson with my dad. I can't get over how beautiful it is. What a talented kid <3 

Happy List! {by Jessie}

Monday, June 12, 2017

Last week, while feeling a bit overwhelmed and generally burned out, I received the sweetest email from a reader. Absolute sweetest. It lifted my spirits and changed my mood entirely. Jessie sent the nicest note and happy list below, and suddenly I find myself wanting to be more dedicated to this space and looking up trips to DC (the only place in the U.S. Brian and I have mutually agreed would be nice to move to :) Thank you, Jessie! Your kind words meant the world.

10 things that are making Jessie (who wrote this book, so amazing!) smile as of late:

1. That my parents are visiting me here in DC from Chicago and we're going to two games in the Cubs/Nats series at the end of June! #GoCubsGo
2. Binge-watching Fixer Upper on HGTV and secretly wanting to drop everything and be an interior designer for Magnolia Homes.
3. This homemade lemonade recipe (and enjoying it in the sun on our rooftop).
4. Planning Sunday night dinners for when my boyfriend, Ben, gets home from drill weekends with the Army Reserve.
5. Looking forward to spending the 4th of July in the Adirondack Mountains of New York!
6. Our rescue puppy, Obi (yes, Star Wars!), and how ecstatic he is when he's frolicking around with his friends at the dog park.
7. Going kayaking on the Potomac River.
8. Any song off of "The King is Dead" album by the Decemberists, who I recently saw in concert (and they were amazing!)!
9. Our neighborhood in DC, where the streets are lined with tall oak trees.
10. The recent weekend getaway that Ben, Obi and I took to a cabin in Virginia. And the other adventures we'll go on this year!

Thank you for sharing, Jessie! 

Check out more happy lists here and email your list to ladan.nikravan{at} if you'd like to participate. Have a great week! xo

Puerto Rico!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Hello!! I'm excited to share some photos from our time in Puerto Rico last week, specifically San Juan and the rainforest. It's photo overload because everywhere we looked was so picturesque, it felt like we were walking into a movie scene. I'm still on such a high from it all. But this trip came with little hurdles. 

Guys, why are we so bad at this traveling thing sometimes?! We lost (practically gave away) a significant chunk of our change in Paris (we were 24! naive!), all of our documents in Italy (25! naive!) and important custom forms in Mexico (26, still naive...). I also lost my favorite camera lens somewhere in between there in Arizona, which I had just paid $150 to fix the week before the trip... This time, five years after our first travel mistake, Brian lost his ID in the airport in Chicago before we made it to our connecting flight in Orlando, making it tricky to leave Puerto Rico when it was time to come home, and leaving me in charge of things like the rental car when I was just telling him a few weeks ago I was thinking of enrolling in driving school again since I haven't driven in years and am kind of terrified to. Oi! 

We landed late Friday night, and I drove our giant Jeep Wrangler to our tiny Airbnb apartment in Ocean Park. The guy at the car rental place happily told me we'd been upgraded, but I seriously thought they were going to take it away from me when I couldn't get out of the parking garage. The lady at the gate very hesitantly pushed the button to let us out. 

Once we got to our place we walked to get some takeout pizza and then went inside to figure out how Brian would get back home without a photo ID. We couldn't get over how tiny the room was (the kitchen is outside, the bathroom in a small cave inside the room) and as we reminisced about the tiny rooms of our past vacations, we decided to hit the reset button (a concept our friends started, you literally pretend to press a button inside someone's palm to hit "reset." Ha!) and put the day's frustrations behind us. 

Note: we know these rooms are tiny when we book them, but for the price and location (and the minimal time we spend in them), they can't be beat. 

The next morning we woke up and left our place for Old San Juan. Here I am with my trusty Jeep, which I had parked on a speed bump. Haha!

Brian with the maps, everywhere we go. Also, those clouds!

The best popsicles. I'm bummed we didn't go back a second time. If you find yourself in San Juan, definitely go!

The different doors of Puerto Rico were some of the prettiest things I've seen. I love the different colored homes and shops, and adding these doors to the mix made everything ten times cuter. It felt like walking through an old, little town in Spain.

We loved Puerto Rico's signature dish, mofongo (mashed, fried plantains). Love, love, love. We had it here and can't recommend going enough. Especially if you like wicked strong cocktails.

We visited both Castillo de San Cristóbal and San Felipe del Morro Fortress, which had the best views. A $5 ticket gets you into both, so don't lose your stub :)

There were stray cats everywhere around the island (towards the jungle, stray dogs, chickens and horses, too...) and the most adorable little kittens were hanging out at our Airbnb. 

Grateful for this man who opens coconuts off the tree for me in Puerto Rico but also takes a hammer to them on our patio in the January Chicago snow (kind of balances out the losing-our-things when traveling thing). I loooooove coconuts.

Shortly after the coconut treat, our Airbnb host came up to us in the kitchen and said he had bad news ... the power was out. Someone had come to cut down some trees and had accidentally cut the cord. He said that since it was Saturday, no one could come fix it, and given the holiday (Memorial Day), it could be days. It was 93 degrees! We were frantic. Brian looked into hotels we could stay at instead while I googled how I could fix the electricity. Brian asked me whether he should book another room, and I told him to wait a bit. Maybe it'd cool down (it didn't).

We decided to chat by the kitchen because our tiny room was a sauna, and slowly others that were staying in the complex joined us. A long night and story short, we ended up staying in the Airbnb and having dinner with our host, who had the most wild stories (he's had five wives!). We went back to our rooms around 2 in the morning and haven't stopped talking about that night since. We met some of the kindest, most interesting people and realized this is why we like traveling so much. Also realized that my college boyfriend is still right, red wine brings out all of my emotions.

Our Airbnb was two blocks from the beach (where we got the worst sunburns of our lives), which had warm, relaxing water (but blistering hot sand). 

Puerto Rico is really good at food stuffed in other food. This pineapple curry rice inside a pineapple (from here) was divine. There were also lots of stuffed lobsters and stuffed avocados, which we unfortunately didn't have time to try. 

Oh gosh, funny story about this dinner, actually. Brian picked out the restaurant and we put "La Parrilla" (the name of the restaurant) into the GPS on my phone. We drove there (about 30 minutes) and couldn't find it for the life of us. Looking at the map, Brian said "it looks like it's next to a Baskin-Robbins... inside a building..." It turns out there are two La Parrillas, one is a fast-food chain spot inside an outlet mall, and another the restaurant we were looking for (no connection to the other) on the beach (of course, 30 minutes away from the outlet mall). We were laughing so hard walking through the outlet mall. It felt like a treasure hunt :) 

We spent the next few days at the Rainforest Inn in El Yunque National Forest, a recommendation from Brian's friend Anna. This was one of the coolest places we've ever stayed. A 30-minute drive into the jungle, it was so secluded and serene. The owners (the coolest couple from Maine) are the most wonderful people, and the breakfast each morning was out of this world. I can't speak highly enough of it. 

More coconuts from the side of the road. So, so good. And, if you can't tell, by this point of the trip I was so, so burned. It hurt to wear a swimsuit or seatbelt. Oh, and I gave up on the Wrangler and Brian was driving. It was too terrifying to drive in the jungle (narrow, windy roads). We weighed it out, and there was a much higher chance of us losing our lives if I drove than Brian getting caught without a license. 

We both got into the waterfall after this photo was taken, but the photos are too embarrassing to share! I was basically totally submerged, and the water was freezing!

After a long day of hiking in the rainforest this burger was out of this world (I got it with fried plantains instead of a bun, which was messy but extra delicious).

That night we were too exhausted to do anything but drink wine, eat Doritos and watch Master of None. It was so peaceful in the hammock with the rainforest sounds around us (it was super loud, though! It felt like someone had put a noise machine to our ears). 

On our last full day Brian picked the activity, which was to visit Sandra Farms, where a couple makes coffee and chocolates. It took us more than three hours to get there, and the roads were so, so narrow. I was terrified. I could see the ledge on either side, and since it was a two-way street, I had no idea what we'd do if another car came by. Once we finally got there (my motion sickness in full force), there was next to nothing there! We were worried we were in the wrong place, and our phones were draining battery fast. Brian called Israel, the owner, who said we were in the right place and he'd come out to meet us. 

Israel took us inside their home and poured us fresh coffee. I was kind of worried to be in a stranger's house alone (when I asked to use his bathroom he guided me to the couple's personal bathroom, and I was like where are we), but just like the Airbnb night, it ended up being one of the coolest experiences. Israel told us about growing up in New York, how the coffee business runs in his family, his adventures from the Peace Corps, shared how coffee is made and walked us throughout their property. It was fascinating.

That night we had our best meal inside the cutest pink house (another recommendation from Anna!) and drove back to the rainforest one last time.

There were pineapple trees at the inn along with a long list of other fruits and vegetables. A lot of what we ate there was directly from the property. We also saw some of the coolest lizards and bugs during this trip! Everywhere I stepped there was a gecko by my foot. 

Each morning Renee from the Rainforest Inn would serve us the tastiest vegetarian breakfast with a homemade, fresh smoothie (we tried this fruit for the first time, which I loved but Brian did not) and coffee from Sandra Farms (she made the best cafe con leches)! We'd eat with all the other guests (six people total) and tried to make plans for a hike together a few times but the rain changed plans again and again.

On our way to the airport we spotted a horse on the road. I was surprised at every animal we saw (so. many. chickens), but the horse was definitely the chart topper. And, obviously, Brian made it home OK, for all those concerned. 

We loved you, Puerto Rico! So much. I can't wait to go back one day.