A Pizza Party!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Last weekend, before my mom went overseas for a month (anyone else have a hard time with their family being away or have you grown up?), B and I hosted a little pizza party with my family. He got this cool stove-top pizza oven for Christmas, and we've had weekly homemade 'za nights since. It makes the best crust and each pizza takes six minutes. It's the coolest contraption and we'll take any chance to show off B's new skills. 

I have yet to master a pretty charcuterie board, but my saved Instagram grid is full of them. I'm good at the taste element (this cheese, this cheese and these crackers are amazing), but it never looks how I hope it will when I'm wandering the aisles of Trader Joe's. We picked out some items from Wayfair to use that night, and these beautiful gold-rimmed plates and striped Italian-looking napkins helped step up my appetizer game. 

We put all of the pizza toppings in different bowls and let people decide what they wanted on their pizzas (but mostly everyone delegated and trusted the chef to do his thing ;) We've made our own dough before, but since it's so cheap and equally delicious if you just buy it, we've resorted to that almost always. A lot of pizza places will give you some for free (and we have an amazing pizza spot by us), but we usually just go for what's in the fridge/freezer already.

Pasta salad in the most beautiful bowl. My mom, sister and I all have it now! It's the perfect serving dish and looks like something you'd pick up in a market in Europe. 

At long last we have a pizza pan to make us really official. You can't be official when you're cutting your pizza on the back of the box or on a plate. But official we are, so get your orders in. 

If you're on the hunt for a pizza model or salad bowl, I'd recommend this kid and this mint green bamboo one ;) Also, we cheated and "made" a TJ's salad and everyone ooo-ed and ahhh-ed asking for the recipe, and we were busted. 

A few weeks ago we hosted a pizza night and I broke a beloved stemmed wine glass, so I learned my lesson and we're going stemless for a while. These come in two varieties (red/white) and the price can't be beat.

A little break for everyone to play HQ Trivia ;) Are you obsessed? I only downloaded it so someone could get a free life, but I always forget to tune in. My brother and B have gotten to the second-to-last question, they'll strike it rich any day now. 

Yummy desserts, cappuccinos and old fashioned cocktails to end the night. I'm still not eating sweets (a few more days!) and the leftover cheesecake in the fridge has been staring at me all week. 

It was so nice to have my family over, it makes me realize how cozy this home finally feels. It's nights like these that make winter in Chicago a little bit more bearable. 

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

A New Valentine's Tradition...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

For someone who really doesn't care about Valentine's Day, I've sure been posting a lot about it!

I wanted to share a new tradition Brian and I started this year and hope to continue for many years to come. Since we always like to get each other something small for V Day, we decided to start buying each other a book every year, something we think the other will enjoy. I got B this one, and he got me this (with a sweet note written on the first page that broke me <3). We haven't read either ourselves, but I'm confident our research led to good picks. B said he read mine has stories that "stick in your head for days" — right up my alley.

We've also discussed doing a book swap in the past. We're always telling each other about the books we're reading (every night I've been filling Brian in on this one), but a book takes you an such an epic inner journey, it's almost impossible to share with someone who hasn't read it too (like when you try to retell a dream out loud, another daily occurrence around here). Anyway, would love to swap a few favorites with B sometime.

But for now, I love this new tradition and can't wait to read my book and for the collection we'll grow over time. I love you, Brian Lee Hayes.

The Cutest Valentine's Day Cards!

Friday, February 9, 2018

We have a snow day today!!!!!! Poor B has spent 70 percent of his week at work and the other 30 percent shoveling our driveway, but surely it'll stop soon and we'll just have a cozy day inside sipping on lattes before transitioning to wine ;)

I wanted to share these cute Valentine's Day cards I received last week from HelloKatieElizabeth. I mentioned in my last post that I took a modern lettering class last weekend, and I find it so difficult, I have a newfound respect for artists that make it look so effortless. Katie's cards are so cute, funny and only $5 — and she does custom projects. I'd love for her to make personalized birthday cards with inside jokes for my family. 

She has lots of other cards, too. I love this wine one (I have a few to send to girlfriends randomly) and want this one framed for my desk. Check them out and order ASAP for pre-Valentine's Day delivery! 

Stay warm, everyone. 39 days until spring, we've got this! 

Bits and Pieces

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Winter and I aren't the best mix. I always arm myself with my trusty hot water bottle and a good book, and try to have a can-do attitude, but I get draggy by 4 p.m. and the only thing I can think about when I'm outside is when I'll come back inside. I've spent the majority of the past few weeks under the covers watching trash television, waiting for B to come home so we can watch The Leftovers (I'm OBSESSED). But in between the chilliness and laziness there have been some highlights, like my siblings visiting, taking a calligraphy class and scheming summer travel plans. I can't wait to ride my bike and wear sandals!!!

Below are some iPhone pics from recent moments if you care to see! Hope things are cozy and a little more exciting wherever you are ;)

The Perfect Valentine's Day Gift...

Thursday, February 1, 2018

I've never been big into Valentine's Day. It's so unnecessary to me, and (more) truthfully, I'm still having nightmares from my first with a serious boyfriend. We were 19 and bribed his older brother to buy us a bottle of wine, which we shared on the floor of my college dorm, eating cold kabobs out of styrofoam to-go containers while watching Real World. My roommate was in the room, too. I ended up getting really sick for some reason and spent the rest of the night vomiting in the girl's bathroom having friends take turns taking care of me and other girls joining me to puke after their indulgent evenings throughout the night. It was terrible. And my family surprised me on campus the next morning. And didn't know about my boyfriend. It was a total disaster. 

A couple of years later I met the cutest tax accountant who's unfortunately a slave to the man this time of year, so we've always pushed V Day aside (besides, again, it's super dumb). But B always manages to get the sweetest little gift (last year I got him pajama pants that match our sheets, I'm also a romantic). A few years ago he got me a print that says "Come sit inside this tent and eat a snack like probably cheese" that he said he saw months before and instantly thought it was made for me (truth!!!) I love it so much. It's hanging by our bed, and it makes me so happy every time I see it. 

Prints and cards make the perfect gift (we have a few cards framed around our place, there are such great ones here). Finding the right one for someone (or, hey, yourself) feels like you've hit the jackpot. I recently got this print for our bathroom, and I'm obsessed with it. Brian and I have had countless conversations about what it means to be in love, whether soulmates exist, inevitable life after death, and this simple print is the perfect summation of so many of our thoughts.

It's no secret that we love Framed & Matted and got this print framed by them as well. We got a colored mat for the first time, which makes the print pop more, and I wish we had incorporated that into our living room gallery wall

We love Framed & Matted for lots of reasons. First, there are dozens of frames and matting options to choose from, and the process is less intimidating and more accessible than other framing experiences because all the options are up to you, and you make decisions in the comfort of your own home. Second, the prices are reasonable and they promise speedy turnaround time. Third, every part of the process is customizable. We have a photo in our hallway that we wanted a unique size mat around, and Framed & Matted made our image come to life. We've been customers for some time and have nothing but good things to say :) 

So, this Valentine's Day, if you're looking for a little gift that means a lot and lasts forever, I'd start looking for the perfect print and get it framed by Framed & Matted. This print would look so cute with their double matting, blush pink and white ;) 

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

My First Iranian Dish: Loobia Polow

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A few weeks ago, I felt like I had things together. Or as together as I can have them. Deadlines were being met, the apartment wasn't a complete disaster, we weren't sitting on some type of toiletry trying to squeeze the last bit out (will there ever be a time that I remember to buy those things before they run out? Or a time I go to the pharmacy and don't spend half a paycheck on useless things?). I was proud to have this adult thing down, and decided it was time for the next step — to try and make Iranian food.

Over the weekend I tried my hand at my first dish, loobia polow (rice with green beans, I followed the recipe from this cookbook, which I highly recommend), and while it took a lot longer than I expected or it should have, it turned out much better than I imagined. It was no where near my mother's or grandmother's, but it was a start. An emotional start. I couldn't help but get sentimental cutting up the green beans in my kitchen, thinking of all the strong Persian women I've witnessed do the same thing in their own. Women who have endured so much, juggled so many things, overcome so many challenges. I'm so proud and undeserving to be in the company of those women <3

One of the things I like most about Iranian food is that it's flavorful without being overly powerful. All of my non-Iranian friends who have tried any Persian dish have loved it. This one's a good one to start with if you're new to Persian cuisine because the ingredients are simple (and who doesn't love rice?). Also, if you're looking for an Iranian restaurant in Chicago, this one is our favorite.

I should also add that things are decidedly no longer together. Like at all.

Ingredients (serves six):

For the meat:
3 tablespoons oil
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 pounds stew meat (lamb or beef)
2 pounds fresh green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 large fresh tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped; or one 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained
Juice of 1 lime

For the rice:
3 cups long-grain basmati rice
1 cup oil or butter
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons rose water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

To cook the meat: In a medium saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat, and brown the onions, garlic and meat. Add green beans, salt, pepper, turmeric, cayenne and cinnamon. Saute for a few minutes and add the tomatoes (if using canned tomatoes, make sure they are completely drained) and lime juice. Cover and simmer over low heat for 40 minutes.

To cook the rice: Clean and wash 3 cups rice 5 times in warm water. It is then desirable but not essential to soak the rice in 8 cups water with 2 tablespoons of salt for at least 2 hours.

Bring 8 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large, non-stick pot. Pour the washed and drained rice into the pot. Boil briskly for 6-10 minutes, gently stirring twice to loosen any grains that may have stuck to the bottom. Bite a few grains. If the rice feels soft and all of it has risen to the surface, it is ready to be drained. Drain rice in a large, fine-mesh colander and rinse with 2-3 cups water.

To make a golden crush (tah-dig): In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup oil, 1/4 cup water, a few drops of saffron-rose water, and 2 spatulas rice. Spread this mixture evenly over the bottom of the pot.

Place 2 spatulas full of rice in the pot, then add a layer of the green bean and meat mixture (use a slotted spatula to avoid bringing in the juices and reserve any remaining juice to use later on). Sprinkle with cinnamon between the layers. Repeat, alternating layers to form a pyramid. Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.

Pour the remaining oil, saffron-rose water and meat juices over the rice. Wrap the lid with a clean dish towel and cover the pot firmly with the lid to prevent steam from escaping. Cook 50 minutes longer over low heat. Remove the pot from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Take out 2 tablespoons of the saffron-flavored rice from the top and set aside for garnishing.

Gently taking 1 spatula full of rice at a time, place it on a serving platter without disturbing the crust. Mound the rice in the shape of a cone. Garnish with saffron-flavored rice.

Detach the crust from the bottom of the pot using a wooden spatula. Place the pieces of the crust on a small platter and serve on the side.

Butternut Squash Noodles With Goat Cheese And Sage

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

I posted this quick, easy, cheap recipe on Instagram last night and figured I'd share here as well because it was so simple and yet so satisfying. I made it on a whim with just about all we had in the fridge and didn't plan on posting (especially since the grainy photo leaves a bit to be desired ;) but in case there's someone else out there in severe need of a health detox, it can't hurt to share <3

Ingredients (serves three): 
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 package of pre-cut butternut squash noodles 
1 small package of sage, chopped 
Black pepper and sea salt, to taste
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons goat cheese crumbles
* I added Trader Joe's frozen grilled chicken, but that's optional 

Place olive oil in a large skillet pan with minced garlic. Place stove on medium-high heat until oil is bubbling and garlic has been cooked about a minute. 

Add butternut squash noodles and cook for 5-7 minutes or until tender. 

While butternut squash is cooking, sprinkle on pepper, sea salt and half of the chopped sage.

Once the squash is thoroughly cooked and tender, toss in parmesan and stir until mixed well. Before removing from heat, toss goat cheese crumbles in the pan and stir until just melted. 

Sprinkle on remaining sage and a few extra goat cheese chunks for garnish. 

2017, A Year in Review

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Of surprise to absolutely nobody, I cried on New Year's Eve. I cried because (I always do?) parts of this year were really trying. For so many people in this country, and for this country, but also for me, for us. At times it felt like 2017 was stretching us like crazy, bending us over the knee for a solid beating. Merciless, 2017. But other times, most times, it was so exquisitely beautiful. I cried because it was a year filled with so much love, so much joy. So often in 2017 I'd feel a pit in my stomach. I don't deserve this life. I am so, so grateful for this life. 2017 made me stronger, better and kinder, and ready to throw myself into 2018 with everything I've got.

Every January I go through the millions of photos we've taken during the year, back up my hard drive and make a photo album. Every year this involves artistically breathtaking renditions of all four letter words I know, and every year, once it's all in, I sit there completely taken aback at all of it. I always feel so overwhelmed with emotion at all of the blessings and beauty in our lives. We have such sweet families, friends we love as fiercely as family, and a love and respect for each other I will never take for granted. I'm so happy, lucky and proud of this life because of those things.

Thank you for stopping by here and following along. For visiting my corner of the internet and letting me share/document a portion of my life with you. A few of my favorite photos from this humdinger of a year below.

P.S. Year in review posts are my favorite. Check out 2016201520142013!

Need a Last Minute Gift?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Are you a last minute shopper? I like to have mine wrapped up by Thanksgiving (literally), but Brian's a last second kind of guy. He's in charge of one, and it's still not finished! It's stressing me out! Anyway, in case you're the procrastinating type, or fancy a little something for yourself, I wanted to tell you guys about Katherine Corden Art.

I "met" Katherine through social media and instantly became a fan of her work. I love, love, love the way she colorfully captures Chicago (especially summertime scenes like this). We recently received this print, and framed it in this elegant Target frame (on sale for $15 in stores!!!). Just have to find the perfect spot to hang it ;) Since Katherine's local, you can pick up a print from her or get one shipped ASAP. She also does personal commissions, if you're looking for something down the line. I'm thinking of having her paint my childhood home in England.

Anyway, she has beautiful stuff and is incredibly talented. Check everything out here and reach out here if you're interested!

And with that, signing off until the New Year! Have a wonderful, cozy, safe little break. See you in 2018!!!

Zoo Lights!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

We spent last night at the Lincoln Park ZooLights, a yearly tradition (seven years now, I think?) and one of our favorite things to do in the city in December. It wasn't nearly as cold as usual, but it still felt so good to duck in here for dinner after (chili, turkey burger, ginger ale as always — the BEST ginger ale). A few years ago we tried doing 12 dates of Christmas (12 dates in December), but we barely made it halfway. We've been hitting up lots of favorites lately, so I think we'll unintentionally get to 12 this year :)

One more work day, folks! ONE MORE!!! I've got lots of little things to wrap up, but I'm so restless and excited to go home! xo