Thursday, December 29, 2016

Holiday Flower Show at Garfield Park Conservatory

My new family of three spent a few hours at the Garfield Park Conservatory earlier this month to check out the 2016 holiday flower exhibit. I hadn't visited the Conservatory in years. I don't know why it took me so long to go back - it's a beautiful place, especially during colorless winter months. Today I'm sharing a photo recap of our visit to the Holiday Flower Show: Sky Forest.

This year's Holiday Flower Show is open until January 8, 2017, so if you're in the area you still have time to squeeze in a visit!

The Fraser fir tree is highlighted in the holiday exhibit with over 100 trees on display. This happens to be my favorite Christmas tree - I love love the smell and look of it. We have a small Fraser fir in our dining room right now.

Trees are displayed at various heights, including suspensions in the air. Super impressive.

The holiday show house is also full of flowers, such as exotic colored poinsettias.

We checked out the rest of the Conservatory during our visit, which is one of the largest in the U.S. - a fact I just learned while reading up on its history for this post! The Conservatory has been open since 1908, and holds 4.5 acres of plants - including indoor and outdoor displays.

The Garfield Park Conservatory is open every day of the year, and admission is free {a donation of $5 per person is suggested}. Baby C enjoyed his first conservatory visit at 2 weeks old. This is a great place to take a baby for a visit in the winter, especially since many of the plant rooms are very warm. Walking through the rooms feels like taking a beach vacation. :)

Besides the holiday show house, my favorite rooms included cacti:

A koi pond:

And huge, towering palm trees:

We can't wait to go back this winter for another visit and may even check out the holiday flower show again with visiting family over the New Years weekend.

The Garfield Park Conservatory is operated by the Chicago Park District, Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, and Garfield Park Community Council. The Conservatory is located at 300 N. Central Park Avenue, Chicago, IL, about 15 minutes west of downtown via the expressway.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Flourless Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Bars

This flourless recipe for Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Bars is a healthier take on a holiday dessert, with the warm gingerbread spices of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.

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Last December I posted a healthier dessert recipe for Peppermint Mocha Brownies, using no butter or oil and almond flour instead of white flour. I experimented in the kitchen yesterday with a gingerbread version and I think it turned out very tasty!

I have been inspired by holiday flavors lately, especially gingerbread. K and I visited the Museum of Science and Industry last week, to take in the Christmas Around the World exhibit. It's a beautiful display inside the museum, with a four-story Christmas tree and over fifty smaller trees decorated to represent the holiday traditions of countries around the world. I picked up this Gingerbread Wonderland cookbook at the museum's holiday store, and immediately made the Dark Gingerbread shape cookies.

Making gingerbread cookies is so labor intensive! As a follow-up to my cookie baking, I decided to create a recipe using gingerbread flavors without the hours of work. These Flourless Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Bars include a secret ingredient, the same as my Peppermint Mocha Brownies - pumpkin puree. Pumpkin puree gives the bars a lot of moisture and you don't need to add any butter or oil.

I had a helper in the kitchen too - this little buddy napped the afternoon away.

These bars include my favorite gingerbread flavors - blackstrap molasses, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. I'm also a big fan of adding chocolate to gingerbread desserts. I used semi-sweet chocolate chips for this recipe, but I think dark chocolate chips would be delicious too.

These bars are fudgy and spicy, with the consistency of a brownie instead of a cookie. They are also gluten free since I used almond flour instead of white flour.

Flourless Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Bars
Yields: 12 bars

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes

1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats {ground into flour} or oat flour
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup light brown sugar + 2 Tablespoons
1 egg
2 Tablespoons blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips + 2 Tablespoons
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

How to~
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Mix dry ingredients - almond flour, oat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, spices, and salt.
*Add wet ingredients - pumpkin puree, molasses, egg, and vanilla extract. Mix until combined.
*Stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips.
*Add batter to a 9x9 pan {or equivalent} pan.** Top with additional chocolate chips.
*Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick or fork comes out clean.

**Note: I used a 10x7 pan.

These bars need to be refrigerated or frozen due to the fudgy texture.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide: Runners

This Holiday Gift Guide for Runners includes a few of my favorite things - this is a great last minute gift list for a favorite runner in your life.

This post contains affiliate links.

I recently posted a Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies and today I'm back with a Holiday Gift Guide for Runners. I stopped running during mid-pregnancy, so I haven't logged any miles since the end of June. I can't believe it has been close to six months since my last run! I miss it and I'm looking forward to getting back out there in the new year and logging some chilly miles.

Below are six of my gift ideas for the favorite runner in your life.

A running belt - the FlipBelt Zipper {$34.99}

I have been using a FlipBelt for two years and I love it. This running belt stretches to fit around your waist or hips and can hold keys, tissues, my cell and headphones, and anything else small that I might need during a run.

Medal Hanger - Runners INSPIRATION Race Medal Hanger {$39.99}

I bought a similar medal hanger as a Christmas gift for my friend S a few years ago to commemorate the many races we have finished together. I think it's a great way for your favorite runner to display medals!

GapFit Breathe Tee Shirt {on sale, starting at $19.99}

I am a huge fan of these GapFit t-shirts, especially for workouts. I have this shirt in several colors. It's  super soft and washes really well! GapFit also has a long-sleeved version.

{Image via Gap}

Smartwool Women's Run Socks {$17.95}

I love Smartwool socks, especially the thinner, low cut version for workouts. This women's running sock is available in a variety of colors.

{Image via Amazon}

Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones {$149}

I'm still using my old school headphones {the free pair that comes with your iPhone}, but I'm thinking about upgrading to a wireless Bluetooth version in the new year after reading so many good reviews. This pair from Bose is at the top of the list for 2016, according to

{Image via Amazon}

Born to Run {$9.59}

I actually bought myself this book a few years ago and still haven't read it {I know}. It's on my list to finish this winter while I'm on maternity leave. Born to Run looks like a great motivational story!

{Image via Amazon}

What's on your holiday wish list this year?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Baby Makes Three + December Lately List

Happy Saturday! This post is coming to you on the other side of having a new baby - we are just over two weeks in and loving every minute. Baby Cade Lyle decided to join our family a few weeks early, surprising everyone. I thought we were going to have a Christmas baby but he decided the week before Thanksgiving was a better time to arrive - he didn't want to miss out on any holiday celebrating! Baby C arrived on his grandma's birthday too - I can't imagine a better gift.

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Things are going well, and we are lucky that he's a very chill baby so far {knock on wood}. I'm also sharing a Lately List for highlights of what we are up to right now. I shared this list for the first time back in November 2014. If you copy/paste this list on your own blog, please leave a comment with your link! I would love to read what's going on in your world this month.

Lately List - December 2016

Making: Holiday photo gifts of baby C. Bella Baby Photography takes the most amazing newborn photos!

Waiting: For my baby to wake up.  :)

Feeling: Motivated to finish decorating for the holidays.

Cooking: Nothing at the moment. Our sweet neighborhood group set up a meal train to celebrate baby C's arrival, and we have been enjoying delicious meals {with leftovers!} every night.

 {Chicken Enchiladas with Cowboy Churro Beans and Charred Corn Salad}

Wanting: To bake Christmas cookies. I have a major craving for gingerbread flavors this weekend.

Sewing: Nothing. My sewing skills are still lacking!

Wishing: For a healthy and joyful holiday season.

Drinking: Stumptown Coffee - my absolute favorite. Find the Winter Cheer cold brew if you can - it's made with mulling spices + milk and it's sooo good. I found this at Whole Foods.

Reading: Fates and Furies on my Kindle and What to Expect: The First Year in paperback.

Looking: For a few final items to finish baby C's nursery. How cute is this Alphabet Canvas?

Wasting: Time on Pinterest.

Enjoying: Snuggling with baby C.

Liking: This set of LED string lights - these lights are battery powered and perfect to decorate small corners of your home. I just got mine in the mail yesterday!

Loving: The generosity of our family and friends in celebrating baby C's arrival. We are SO grateful for the well wishes, baby squeezes, visits, meals and gifts!

Thinking: About signing up for a spring race as motivation to get back into running - the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in April is at the top of my list. I ran this race last year while 4 weeks pregnant!

Hoping: For good weather to walk outdoors with baby C - 40 degrees with no wind would be perfect, Mother Nature.

Needing: To finish addressing and mailing birth announcements + holiday cards.

Wondering: When the first big snowfall will arrive this season. Tomorrow there is a 100% chance of snow in the forecast...

Knowing: I need to finish buying Christmas gifts for family.

Smelling: Our Balsam Fir Christmas tree - my favorite part of holiday decor. We picked up this tree last weekend but it's still naked. I think today is finally the day for decorating!

Wearing: "Athleisure" - aka leggings as pants every day.

Following: New accounts on Instagram. Who do I need to add next?

Bookmarking: Crock pot recipes. I'm planning to experiment with the crock pot this season, since I'm home and have plenty of time. I received this cookbook as a wedding shower gift a few years ago - it's time to put it to use.

Marveling: That baby C is here - this weekend would have marked 39 weeks of pregnancy for me, and today he is two weeks + 1 day old.  We are so grateful for his safe arrival!