Things I can't stop talking about - 4/14/19

Popovers! A preview of a recipe I made for my Easter blog post. This

Popovers! A preview of a recipe I made for my Easter blog post. This

I’m a few weeks behind on this one, so I have a lot of thoughts percolating. My mind is often on overdrive with a variety of disparate thoughts from the philosophical to the more trivial. So of course, I’m inviting you into the weeds with me. : ) Without further ado, here they are in no particular order.

One. This article, Creativity Beyond Crafting resonated with me.  It made me think about what I do on this blog, and how I love to create, but not necessarily in a traditional manner. I love menu planning, setting a welcoming table & sharing those ideas with others. And I really love collaborating with other creative people. For instance, when I put together a holiday blog post, I like pulling in my mom and friends with creative eyes to help me tweak & finesse. And I love working with my friend & photographer, Rachel, because she captures my ideas beautifully—much better than I can. What ways do you enjoy creating?

Two. All things Enneagram. A couple years ago, I was introduced to this book. Full disclosure—I’m a bit of a personality test junky. I enjoy them in part because I like learning how other people tick—and I’m always looking for ways to improve how I engage with the world at large.

Ironically, Brock, my husband—our career & household therapist and chief finds them a bit annoying. Mostly because he doesn’t like labels, and thinks that they lean towards putting people into a narrow box. But, after two years of incessant discussion, I got him on the Enneagram band wagon He appreciates that it’s a bit more complex (here’s your personality under stress, here’s what it looks like when you’re healthy, etc..). . At the very least it makes for great conversation, and this podcast is a good introduction. Recently, I also listened to episodes 124 & 125 from Donald Miller’s Storybrand podcast regarding your Enneagram personality in the workplace. Also interesting.

Three. Clothes shopping at Costco.  A few weeks back I bought these FILA joggers.  So comfy & affordable.  I needed something for when I’m justing cleaning/hanging around the house. Perfect! We also get most of my husband’s work pants there, and I last fall I found a really cute Ben Sherman coat that’s perfect for spring/fall.  Super affordable, stylish & convenient. Though I’m sure my 25 year old self might be rolling her eyes at me right now. Ha!

Four. Maybe it’s spring fever, but I’m thinking about cleaning. A number of years ago I was introduced to Basic H by Shaklee, and it has been my go to. It’s non-toxic and lasts FOREVER (I still have my first bottle from at least 7 years ago). It’s highly concentrated and you simply add a few drops to water. And it’s safe on my new bathroom quartz countertops so that makes me even happier. I also like their spray bottles because you can use one for windows, one for general cleaning and one for degreasing. I recently decided to try their scrubbing paste and Basic G for disinfecting. Finally, I also really love the Norwex cleaning cloths—in particular the window cloth. 

Five. Recently, Brock and I went to eat at The Chophouse in Ann Arbor, and they had the most delicious gluten free cheddar popovers (and I’m not a gluten free girl).  They were made with tapioca flour—after the meal I immediately started searching for a similar recipe. I found this one via King Arthur’s flour.  And stay tuned, I also made traditional popovers this week in preparation for Easter.

Finally, Things my favorite boys can’t stop talking about, and secretly, I’m pretty excited as well.

Six. The Cleveland Browns

Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham, revamped defensive line…  12-1 odds that we’ll win the Super Bowl. And Jim Rome’s on board.

For non-Clevelanders, what you have to understand is the Browns haven’t been good since I was 13 years old. That’s 30 years ago. I was in seventh grade. Bernie Kosar was quarterback. My own son is 13. The two seasons before this past one, they had a 1-31 record!!!!! Possibly the worst stretch in professional sports history. To say there’s been a football drought in the land of Cleve is an understatement.  Wonders never cease.

Pink Bath Remodel

Our pink bathroom got a makeover! Before I get started with all the details, let me preface with a few notes. The bathroom hadn’t been updated—except for basics like paint and accessories—since it was built in 1960. How do I know this for sure since we only lived in the house for 7 years… because we found newspaper wrapped around electrical wiring from the 1960 Nixon/Kennedy election. No kidding. Bottom line, it needed to be gutted. Scroll through these photos and check out the crumbling pink tile shower.

This particular bathroom is the main bath off of our kitchen & living room and is also our kids’ bath. My goal: attractive, functional & kid friendly. For that reason we decided to ditch the tiny shower (it was dark and cramped) and combine it with our bath. We kept the original cast iron tub because it was in good shape, and nothing can truly replace old school cast iron! Combining the shower and tub allowed us to add a tall cabinet for towels, medicine, etc, as well as a double sink so two kids could brush their teeth at the same time. I also included four drawers on the main cabinet so each child could have their own drawer—to minimize arguments, of course. : )

This is is basically how the bathroom looked when we purchased the house in 2011. We stripped the wallpaper and painted it a greige, but until we demoed it this past summer, 2018, it only had basic cosmetic upgrades.

This is is basically how the bathroom looked when we purchased the house in 2011. We stripped the wallpaper and painted it a greige, but until we demoed it this past summer, 2018, it only had basic cosmetic upgrades.

I saw this photo via instagram last spring and loved it, though I was a bit gun shy going all blue in my bath—so I blended these ideas with a simply white by Benjamin moore and a light warm gray. You can see my tile, cabinet and counter choices below. inspiration via  Sabbe Interior  Design

I saw this photo via instagram last spring and loved it, though I was a bit gun shy going all blue in my bath—so I blended these ideas with a simply white by Benjamin moore and a light warm gray. You can see my tile, cabinet and counter choices below. inspiration via Sabbe Interior Design

I love the wainscoting, substantial trim, and saturated color of this dining room. Inspiration via  Sabbe Interior Design .

I love the wainscoting, substantial trim, and saturated color of this dining room. Inspiration via Sabbe Interior Design.

Blue has always been one of my favorite colors, so needless to say I’ve happily embraced the dark blue cabinet trend. I color matched a sample I found via the Sarah Sherman Samuel line by Semi-Handmade (a company that makes semi-custom fronts for Ikea cabinets), and went with simple Shaker in set doors. I had a local cabinet maker, Brian Stoll, make the cabinets and he did a beautiful job—basically I described what I was looking for and he sketched & built the cabinet. I love the deep inky blue!  I was really inspired by the beautiful design work of Sabbe Interior Design as well as Jean Stoffer Design. And I pulled in my friend, Rebekah Dell throughout the entire process. She freelances as an interior designer and has a great eye. If she didn’t have a full time job, I would find away to work with her on all projects.

For the hardware, I looked at all sorts of spendy places but settled on Martha Stewart pulls from Home Depot. I had to draw the line somewhere, and couldn’t stomach the spendy prices. This is where I love blogs. I had saved some notes from Erin Gates of Elements of Style.  She’s got a great, traditional New England look and fabulous taste, so when she says that the Martha Stewart line is quality, I believe her. And there was a $100 price difference between that at Restoration Hardware and Rejuvenation.  Not to mention, a bunch of their hardware was back ordered.  

Inky blue cabinets with  Ella cambria quartz counters ,  Delta cassidy faucets in Brilliance Polished Nicke l,  hardware by Martha stewart at home depot.  custom cabinets & Mirror by brian stoll, jonesville, MI. Photos by Rachel Cuthbert Photography.

Inky blue cabinets with Ella cambria quartz counters, Delta cassidy faucets in Brilliance Polished Nickel, hardware by Martha stewart at home depot. custom cabinets & Mirror by brian stoll, jonesville, MI. Photos by Rachel Cuthbert Photography.

Also, I decided to mix metals which makes everything less matchy-matchy, but holy cow, it was no fun trying to find the right shade of brass. Seriously, there’s unlacquered brass,super shiny, aged brass, etc...  I went with a polished nickel for my plumbing fixtures, which is a warmer metal so it plays well with gold and silver.  The gold overhead pendant lights are from Pottery Barn—another suggestion from Rebekah. They add a bit of warmth and a bit oversized which adds balance to tall glass medicine cabinet.

Also, I spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to enclose the bath/shower.  As I mentioned, we tore out the separate shower and added a shower head in the bath.  But, I didn’t want to create a full wall to enclose the bath for fear of losing natural light.  This decision was tricky because it’s the kids & guest bath.  So I want it to be welcoming, but I also wanted to make sure we didn’t flood the bathroom.  If you have kids, you probably get this concern. ; ) Originally, I ordered an L-shaped curtain rod to use with an extra wide shower curtain but those seem to look better with a claw foot tub. Also, I thought it could attract mildew over time.

Newly renovated bath/shower with tempered glass wall..  Shower curtain by Peri Home, bloomingdales .  3x12 Retro Perla gray Tile via the Tile shop . Photo via Rachel Cuthbert Photography

Newly renovated bath/shower with tempered glass wall.. Shower curtain by Peri Home, bloomingdales. 3x12 Retro Perla gray Tile via the Tile shop. Photo via Rachel Cuthbert Photography

My other option was adding a piece of glass to the side of the tub.  I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to have a piece of glass and and shower curtain.  After discussing with friends with eyes for renovating, I decided to go with the a piece of tempered glass to keep water from splashing all over the half wall. I am so glad I asked for their input.

Also, I’ve got stuck in the proverbial weeds when it came to smaller details. It reminds me of planning an event (I planned weddings in a past life). You feel like you’re doing really well—you’ve got the venue, caterer, music.  Phew, but then you get closer to the event and the devil really is in the details (place settings, table décor, music list, party favors and such).  It’s the same with house renovations. I had the contractor, picked out the vanity & counter tops, even the plumbing fixtures. But then I started feeling pretty overwhelmed with the minutia: is the height of my wainscoting too tall, not tall enough, how many sconces should I go with and does the style fit the look of the bathroom?  Don’t forget to put dimmers on lights, what about towel hooks, bars & such?  What color should I go with for the grout, what type of grout should I purchase, and on & on…  These are the details that really make a difference and can make or break the look of a room.

This is where a second & third set of eyes helped. As I mentioned above, while I pulled together bathroom story boards, I also consulted with my friend Rebekah & my mom for some of the final details. As for wainscoting, I finally decided to go with 42” vertical shiplap with a ¼” spacing (again, a decision I had to make on the fly).  For mirror(s), I originally wanted two antique style tilt mirrors, and sconces flanking each side, but sink and tall cabinet placement didn’t allow for that so I had our previous mirror cut down and framed with gray trim to tie together the tiles from the bath with the rest of the room.  

Here’s where I made one of a few mistakes. I handed my contractor a piece of tile and told him to have our cabinet maker match the mirror trim to the tile. Now, my cabinet guy is great, but why in the world didn’t I think to take a few minutes and look through a Ben Moore fan deck that I had sitting on my dining room table!?!I think I was just tired at that point and wanted the bathroom to be done.Bummer! Because, while I like my mirror size, I’m not super jazzed about the gray. It skews more icy cool blue than a deeper, warm gray.

And of course, like many projects, I still have some details to finish. I need to add artwork, upgrade the window treatments, and we will eventually change out the 1960’s bathroom door when we update the rest of the house. It’s true that when you start doing one project, it mushrooms! Though we’ve happily taken a couple of months off in between projects to gear up for our next big project—a kitchen & living room remodel.

Nine for 2019 New Year's Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions… Do you or don’t you?


Ugh!  I don’t even like typing “resolutions.”  To me, it’s synonymous with promises I will break.  If I have an obligation to work, to a friend, to an organization, I’m 100% all in and committed. But, obligations to myself are much easier to break. Thus, my dread of New Year’s resolutions. Much easier to not make them than to disappoint myself.   

And yet, there really is something important about fresh starts, goal setting, and keeping promises to ourselves. So, I’ve had to get creative—basically, to find ways around my worst self.  Truthfully, given to my worst inclinations, I am given to inertia.  I prefer a cup of coffee, a good book and a couch. And while those are fine things, I’m my most fulfilled when I’ve put in the hard work and treat myself with relaxation. It helps that I’m married to a mental health counselor—and someone who prioritizes goal setting and is more likely than me to meet his internal resolutions.  

Over the last two years, I’ve also appreciated reading/listening to books by Gretchin Rubin.  Just this past December, I started to read her flagship book that launched a website, podcast and many other books, The Happiness Project, and I love it.  I actually listened to her follow up books, Happier at Home and The Four Tendencies first.  

I resonate with her system. Clearly, she’s a very accomplished (Yale Law Review, clerked for Sandra Day O’Connor), but doesn’t make you feel like you’re not good enough.  Her message is that we can make life changes by incrementally (in her case, month by month) looking at areas of our lives that we want to improve.  These changes ultimately improve our day to day life. I haven’t systematically followed her rules (yet), but I’ve implemented a few and it has shifted that way I look at things.  I’ve realized that for many years I have felt stuck.  But as I’ve really examined my own personality, temperament, and strengths/weaknesses, I am working hard to work around my weaknesses and play to my strengths.  

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.
— William Butler Yeats quoted in The Happiness Project (p.66)

It was eye opening listening to her book, The Four Tendencies, to realize that of the four (Upholder, Questioner, Rebel, Obliger), I’m an obliger.  As an obliger, my tendency is to fulfill outward obligations to people which makes me a good employer and friend, but I really struggle to meet my own inner expectations.  I spend my energy taking care of needs, but often fail myself by not meeting said expectations.  For years, I thought I was just unmotivated. It was helpful to recognize that it’s not an issue of laziness, but instead I work best with deadlines and —as she calls it, outer accountability.  

Honestly, this annoys me about myself.  I want to be an upholder with the mantra: “discipline is my freedom,” not the person who struggles with inner accountability. But all the gnashing of teeth in the world isn’t going to change how I’m hardwired. Instead of beating myself up, I’m actively looking for ways to create accountability.  Interestingly, I surround myself with upholders—I think this is one form of built in accountability. It’s important to spend the most time with people who inspire and encourage us to be our best selves. 

A few other ways I hold myself accountable include: For little things, like early prep for dinner or washing the dishes before I go to bed, I often ask myself how future self will feel. I’m old enough now (ha!)to know the pain of waking up to a sink full of dirty dishes. I also love learning & good conversation—so in particular, when I’m cooking in the kitchen or folding laundry, etc… I make sure that I stay motivated by listening to good podcasts, audio books or catching up on phone calls.

 For bigger tasks, such as creating my own website—I have had to invest more money and external accountability.  Bottom line: I need real skin in the game.  So I hired a graphic designer to help me craft my brand & I work with a recent marketing grad on some of my social media & scheduling.  Some would see this as a big expense, but for me it has been a good investment & a vehicle to fulfilling personal goals.

Inspired by the Happiness Podcast, here are my 9 Resolutions for 2019: 

1.     Exercise: more walking (track my steps), weight training, and stretching. I really need to work on my posture—I have a very bad habit of slouching and not holding my shoulders back. And big surprise, it’s not improving as I get older. So I’m dedicating 2019 to getting serious about this particular issue.

2.     Step up on the blog—weekly post, monthly email, research the business side of the website. Part of this includes making a concerted effort to write daily. Ideally, 1.5 hr increments. I can overthink projects and because of this really procrastinate. But there is something to setting a timer and breaking tasks into bite size pieces that makes things far less overwhelming. And again, once I get moving, push past my fear and inertia, the words come. I’ve been writing this particular post for 2 weeks. Sounds ridiculous I know. But I’ve been adding and subtracting content, and this is more personal to me than a post about Christmas trees, recipes or decorating. Slowly but surely, this post has taken shape.

3.     Decreasing time on social media—only 2 x’s a day. This is to review Instagram, catch up on blogs, and read news. Like many of us, I have a love hate with social media.  I like keeping up with people’s lives, and I like learning from the various talented bloggers online (one of the reasons I started my own website is because I’ve learned so much from other women who’ve made careers writing about books they read, time management strategies, menu planning, and home décor). But it can also be an exhausting, comparison game, time suck.  Alas, how do we take the good & leave the bad… 

4.     Memory books—pretty behind on this one.  Like 12 years of family photos all stored online behind.  My pipe dream goal is to make one scrapbook a month for the next year.  Probably unrealistic, but a girl can dream. : )

5.    Spend less money on incidentals, bring less into the house. Another personality trait I’ve had to come to terms with… I’m a spender. Some people under spend and have to learn to treat themselves & be more generous. I have to learn to spend less & more wisely. One budgeting tool that Brock and I have loved is the budgeting app: YNAB, short for You Need a Budget. It’s been a game changer for us—we do pay a yearly fee, but it’s been super helpful tracking every dollar and helping us save more. Of course, there’s always room for improvement. Thus I’m trying to decrease nickel & dime purchases. : )

6. Continuing to organize, purge and declutter the house. This goal is tied to #5. I started this process when the now very popular book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo burst on the scene 4 years ago. There’s a reason it has nearly 14,000 4.5 star reviews on Amazon and she has a new series on Netflix. Her steps work. There are a few weird things that I don’t subscribe to—basically treating inanimate objects as living things—but I do love looking at the items I own, or am considering purchasing, and asking the question, “does this spark joy?” There is something to having less but loving each item instead of being overwhelmed and frustrated by the endless organization of mediocre stuff.

7. Saving more for travel & bigger ticket items. Again, directly correlated to goals 5 & 6. Our oldest child is nearly 13, and the way we see it, we have 5 summers left with him living full time at our house. Big fat sigh. I want to use this time wisely. My goal—spend time & money on things that really matter.

8. Go to bed earlier (by 10:30, up early, up by 6 a.m.). I am hoping the Brock is the “wind beneath my wings” in this area. I’m a late night girl, and he loves early mornings. I’m trying to go to bed with him, read for a bit, and then get up earlier. This has been hit or miss so far.

9. Consistent quiet time with the Lord each morning (this is tied to going to bed earlier and getting up earlier).  The joy of the Lord truly is my strength.  But I can’t experience that if I’m not spending good time with Him.  My husband, Brock, is tapped into this—as a human being who counsels other humans, he can’t function before he spends a lot of time reading the Bible, devotionals, reflecting, and praying.  Often, I find myself riding his spiritual coat tails and coasting along until I find myself worn out & irritated with everyone in my general vicinity.  Truth is that on my own, I don’t have enough love, patience or strength.  

My true source is Jesus and his Word.  When I open my Bible, turn on worship music, spend time in prayer—this is the place I am truly encouraged & nourished.  I simply don’t have it on my own.  He, the sovereign Lord and king, the giver of life and peace, who tells us to come to the living water and drink from it (John 7:37-39, paraphrase) has to be my main source.  

Finally, because Brock counsels college students, he often discusses goal setting & such. So I asked him for a bit of feedback on how he encourages people to fulfill goals. Here’s what he had to say:

Why most people have a love/hate with resolutions is that we love newness, it’s the hope that things are going to change.  Which is true—new job, new love, new year… it’s possibility for change.  But—truth is that it has too much emphasis on external locus of control.  

Change comes from inside… Most resolutions fail because they are pipe dream or a magic wand that you want to wave over your life and have instant change. Change happens through hard work, setting objectives to bringing about the goal, by accountability.  

Naturally, I asked him what he suggests people do to fulfill there resolutions. “Pretend I’m a client in your office, what would you tell me?”

  • Review your resolutions/goals every day

  • Hang them up where I can see them

  • Focus on how you think & feel and be if I accomplish them.

  • Journaling about something that didn’t want to do, but I did do. Journal & reflect on things that went well.  Not just the hard things.   

So that’s it for the moment. Would love to hear some of your New Years resolution and ways you plan on meeting them! Cheers to 2019 & greater growth!


Christmas in the Community with Tree Classics

“For it is in giving that we receive.”
― St. Francis of Assisi

As most of you know, I love decorating for the holidays and as brand spokesperson for Tree Classics, of course, I have many opportunities! I have easily set up a dozen tree this year alone. But, while it’s fun decorating our home for the holidays, the most life giving opportunities are when I get to gift trees. So I was pleased to join Tree Classics annual Christmas in the Community campaign where various bloggers gift trees to their favorite community organizations.

Most recently, Tree Classics donated a 7.5’ Lake Forest Fir Snap Tree, tree skirt and ornaments to the SPARC program (a local non-profit that provides programs and support for children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families) at our children’s charter school, Will Carleton Academy. And I can’t say enough kind words for how warmly the students and staff welcomed me. They were so excited to decorate their new tree! We spent a morning listening to holiday music, putting ribbon & ornaments on trees, and drinking hot cocoa.

SPARC  student, Sam, decorating the tree. Photography by Rachel Cuthbert Photography.

SPARC student, Sam, decorating the tree. Photography by Rachel Cuthbert Photography.

Making bows and stringing ornaments.

Making bows and stringing ornaments.

You can imagine my delight when they invited me to see their fully decorated tree and to share more popcorn and hot chocolate. And they made me a lovely salt dough ornament tree along with thank you cards. Very thoughtful! A big thank you to Tree Classics, and Tammy, Char, and Paul with SPARC, and Colleen Vogt the Director of Will Carleton Academy for welcoming me into their community. Merry Christmas!

Hand crafted Salt dough tree; fully decorated Lake Forest Fir Snap Tree.

Holiday 2018 Wrap Up!

The Lutz living room all dressed up for the holidays.  Majestic Blue Spruce  tree,  Classic Fraser Fir garland and wreath . Photography by Rachel Cuthbert Photography

The Lutz living room all dressed up for the holidays. Majestic Blue Spruce tree, Classic Fraser Fir garland and wreath. Photography by Rachel Cuthbert Photography

I’ve been decking all sorts of halls this year… Here are a few of my favorites!

This year I opted for a more narrow tree in my living room, the Majestic Blue Spruce decorated with mercury glass and gold ornaments and topped with gold and velvet green ribbon from Hobby Lobby. For the our fireplace and door, I used the Classic Fraser Fir garland and wreath from Tree Classics—both are battery operated—and honestly, I’ve had them up for over a month and haven’t had to change the batteries.

Next, is my friend and photographer, Rachel’ Cuthbert’s, Christmas tree. Her newly renovated family room has vaulted ceilings which is perfect for a 9 foot tree. We chose a Deluxe Noble Fir—this is one of my favorites with full green, down swept branches. I have used the 7.5’ version of this tree the last few Christmases and love it. I pulled in Tree Classics Woodland Collection, letter ornaments for each member of the Cuthbert family that I found in the Target Dollar bins (I often find some great buys there), berry picks from Tree Classics to add a bit of color and texture. I also like using berry picks for tree toppers as well. We finished it off with bulky yarn that we turned into garland. I found super thick arm knitting yarn at Hobby Lobby and twisted it into garland—it reminds me of a cozy sweater!

Finally, in our family room, I decorated a Flocked Alpine Spruce. Because of the wood paneling in this room, I like to brighten the space and the flocked tree both brightens and adds to a woodsy feel to the room. I also used the new Woodland Ornament collection and red berry picks for this tree. I pulled in gingham wired ribbon from Michaels and topped it with a bow. I love seeing Rachel’s tree and our family room tree next to each other. We both used the Woodland ornaments, but look completely different because the trees and the garland vs. the ribbon. Let me know your favorite!

A few tips from the tree decorating trade:

  1. If you are using an artificial tree, take time to fluff the branches. I know it’s time consuming, but it makes such a difference. Especially towards the back of the tree, branches should be fluffed like a peacock feather. This creates a fuller tree and conceals the trunk.

  2. If you decide to use ribbon, wire the ribbon in first. Here’s a link to a step by step video for adding ribbon to trees.

  3. Vary ornament sizes. I try to decorate with 3 sizes—small, medium, and large. Large ornaments add that wow factor to the tree so don’t be afraid to use them. In fact, put them on after you add ribbon to the tree. Step back from the tree and visually break it into six sections. Place the larger ornaments accordingly, then add medium ornaments and finally smaller ornaments.

  4. Layer detail onto the tree—tree picks—such as the berries I used in Rachel’s tree and my flocked tree, gold leaf picks that I used in my living room tree, etc…, a tree topper, garland, ribbon, and a finally a tree skirts.

  5. Finally, I am often asked, how do you create a cohesive, styled tree if you’re using a variety of mismatched ornaments? My suggestion: pick at least 3 things to tie everything together—a tree topper, garland or ribbon, and a tree skirt, then you can pull in all of your family favorites and heirloom ornaments. Finishing off with coordinating wrapping paper for gifts is another simple way to create a tree that looks and feels coordinated.

That’s it for holiday decor 2018! Would love to hear what’s your favorite of the three trees, and if you have any holiday decorating tips or questions. Wishing you the merriest of Christmases!

Home for the Holidays with Tree Classics

Family room mantle decked in  Christmas Morning Frost garland . Photography by Rachel Cuthbert Photography.

Family room mantle decked in Christmas Morning Frost garland. Photography by Rachel Cuthbert Photography.

Welcome!  I’m excited to be kicking off Tree Classics Home for the Holidays blog tour.  One of my favorite things about being the brand spokesperson for Tree Classics is decorating for Christmas early, previewing some of their new product, and “window shopping” other bloggers holiday decor! Today I’m sharing with you some our favorite holiday traditions along with our family room decked in holiday finest and a few tips for decorating like a pro.   

Perhaps it’s cliché, but Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year.  It’s as if the world takes pause, for even a half second to celebrate what is good and beautiful and true.  We do this by decorating, baking and cooking, gathering those we love and hold dear, sharing meals together, and gifting our time and resources.  And over time these activities create indelible traditions and memories.  

A few favorite Lutz family traditions include (in no particular order):

  • Wrapping and reading 25 picture books to celebrate advent: December 1-25th

  • Decorating the house & making it Christmas cozy (my daughter loves this!)

  • Christmas music!!! Again, a bit cheesy, but it makes me so happy!

  • Pulling out special holiday mugs—especially for hot chocolate (my 9 year old twins have already started using theirs)

  • Baking and gifting cookies & coffee (my husband roasts his own coffee and I bake)

  • A special day of lunch & shopping with the kids (they exchange names and we take them to the city, in our case, Ann Arbor, to shop)

  • Wrapping gifts while watching our favorite holiday movies (White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf… to name a few)

  • Gathering with friends and family.  We live in a small community & my husband works at a college 7 minutes from our house. Our work, school and church life all intertwine (think Mayberry meets Stars Hollow), and no exaggerating, for two weeks in December, we have at least 4 events a week.  Of course, it’s a bit exhausting to fit in all this celebration along with Christmas prep.  But then I ask myself, what would it look like if we didn’t celebrate?  If we didn’t take pause each December and truly celebrate. “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices…” O Holy Night, composed by Adolphe Adam, 1847, text by Placide Cappeau


On to decorating!  I began “decking the halls” in our family room. Tree Classics has fun new product this year—Christmas Morning Frost Wreath and Garland set as well as new ornaments and tree skirts.  Our family room has a rustic feel with knotty pine unfinished planked walls, and I immediately knew that woodland ornaments along with my Flocked Alpine Spruce tree, and Christmas Morning Frost wreath and garland set would create a beautiful winter woodland landscape.  

A few quick designer tips… Really fluff your tree, garland and wreaths.  I’ve linked to a short video of me going through the steps of fluffing a tree. The beauty of pre-lit Tree Classics greens is that they look full and real, and you can adjust the branches to look fuller and fit ornaments (we call it fluffing). In the inside of your tree, fill the holes and blank space by moving your branches upward to mimic a peacock feather.  For exterior branches, look at the picture of the tree online and shape your branches up or down accordingly. I promise, you will be much happier with the end product if you take the time to fluff your branches.  

Fluff your tree branches for the best shape & fullness!

Fluff your tree branches for the best shape & fullness!

Other notes, I always keep twine, green floral wire, green pipe cleaners, wire cutters, and command strips on hand.  To get a really designer look, I will wire ornaments to branches—so that they hang perfect.  You have more control with a wired ornament—you can hang lower or higher. Command strip are amazing for hanging holiday pictures, wreaths, and garland, but you do have to have the right surfaces.  Command strips don’t work as well on uneven surfaces such as the wood in my family room. 

I added the lovely Woodlands Collection ornaments to the tree.  I really like the detail in these ornaments—the owl has real feathers & the cardinal is beautiful.  The red berry tree picks add color and texture—they even have a bit of crystal sanding to mimic snow & add sparkle. I often add ribbon and, for this tree, added gingham ribbon that I purchased at Michael’s earlier in the year.  

Two of my favorites from the collections—the strand of acorns and the owl with real feathers. Love the attention to detail!

Two of my favorites from the collections—the strand of acorns and the owl with real feathers. Love the attention to detail!

For the tree skirt, I chose Tree Classic’s Rustic Plaid Faux fur tree skirt. Seriously love this!  We live in Michigan, and I love anything that looks & feels cozy during the winter months.  Sort of related side note: I just ordered winter boots with shearling lining and am currently looking for the warmest winter coat I can find—faux fur trim would be a bonus! If anyone has favorite WARM winter coats, let me know.   


To tie together the tree and give a cohesive look, I try to use wrapping paper and ribbon that coordinates with the tree.  Home Goods and Ikea are two of my favorite places to shop for these items.  In this picture, both wrapping papers are from Ikea. 

While I used some new product for the woodlands collection for the tree, for my fireplace and piano—I mixed and matched product this year.  Tree Classics has a rustic wreath and garland set, but I wanted to carry the flocked look over to my mantle.  Again, I just really like how the flocked brightens up my wood paneling. Often, I will swag my garland, but this year decided to place the garland on the mantle.  It’s so rich and full with red and silver ornaments, berries and pinecones that I didn’t need much extra décor.  I found a fun mirror at one of my favorite local specialty shops, MaryBeth’s.  There is very little room between the ceiling beams and the mantle, and this distressed, narrow mirror was a perfect addition.  Hanging it was a bit tricky, but gratefully, I had wired twine on hand, and it seems to be hung securely.  

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care… And can I say, I’m so happy I found that mirror! I love this particular shot. : )

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care… And can I say, I’m so happy I found that mirror! I love this particular shot. : )

For the piano, I placed the garland and added candlestick holders that I found last year at a resale shop, along with the lamp that usually sits at the piano. Finally, I hung the wreath above the piano—so far I haven’t added ribbon, but may still add one.   

Christmas Morning Frost wreath  from Tree Classics

And that’s it—my tips for creating an inviting home for the holidays!  Check out my fellow bloggers who will also share their décor and favorite holiday traditions.  And please, share your traditions as well and let me know if I can answer any tree questions. 

Home For the Holidays participating bloggers

Nov 12: Jessica of Domicile 37
Nov 13: Linda of The Home I Create
Nov 14: Jen Lutz of Tree Classics/Jennifer Lutz at Home
Nov 15: Caroline of Caroline Bivens Designs

Nov 16: Haley of At Home with Haley

Nov 17: Kathy of Up to Date Interiors
Nov 18: Heidi of Home by Heidi
Nov 19: Jennifer of The Ranch Uncommon

Nov 20: Shirley of Housepitality Designs

Nov 21: Monica of Monica Wants It
Nov 22: Cindy of Edith & Evelyn Vintage

Nov 23: Ashlee of Ashlee and Her Tribe

Nov 24: Leah of Life as Leah

Treasured Celebrations


This fall my husband and I hosted friends for our 20th college reunion, a celebration of some of my most treasured, life changing friendships.  Needless to say, when Tree Classics invited me to kick-off their Treasured Celebrations blog hop, I knew that this was exactly what I would share with you as we head into Thanksgiving… the beauty of gathering friends and creating memories, along with approachable menus for feeding a crowd and simple décor ideas.

Décor: Front door & table decor

It doesn’t have to be complicated.  For real! I’m laughing a bit as I type this because prep for our Homecoming gathering was a little crazy & complicated. But, that’s because we did a full remodel on our main bath this summer, our master bath is currently gutted and one month out from friends arriving, we started a DIY update of our basement bath. Ha! I will share these bathroom remodels in future posts, but let’s just say, I wouldn’t recommend this level of home improvement this close to a major event.  However, it was a huge impetus to keep moving and get work done. And miraculously, with much thanks to my husband, a handful of college students, and local friends who pitched in last minute, we got most of it done.  

My real recommendation is that you add a few seasonal touches to the house: some fresh flowers, candles, and music right before guests arrive. On the front door, this is one of my favorite wreaths from Tree Classics because it’s beautiful for fall, Thanksgiving or Christmas. Countryside Wreath

Fluffing Tree Classics Countryside Wreath

Fluffing Tree Classics Countryside Wreath

On the inside, I hung this Classic Fraser Fir Wreath.  Again, this is another wreath that works well from fall to Christmas. I added this Thankful sign that a dear friend recently gave me. I love little reminders sprinkled about the house, and truly, I am thankful.  Thankful for decades of friendship, and the bounty that comes from gathering with those we love and cherish.     

Classic Fraser Fir Wreath from Tree Classics. I added the Thankful sign from Hobby Lobby.

Classic Fraser Fir Wreath from Tree Classics. I added the Thankful sign from Hobby Lobby.

For table décor and food, I often employ a few strategies. First, I look to the season.  It’s fall so I pull in the rich colors of the season, thus pumpkins, squash and gourds.  Also, I often buy flowers at my local Kroger—they have great prices for roses and sometimes I even find great prices on discounted flowers. Second, I shop my house. After years of party planning and hosting, I’ve collected quite an array of cloth napkins.  I’ve even made some of my own as well.  And I layer my dining table with a runner, seasonal décor, placemats and mix & match dishes.  

Fall harvest tablescape—table runner & placemats from Ikea, plates from Pioneer Woman (Walmart), print napkins and silverware from World Market, bowls and burnt orange napkins from HomeGoods.

Fall harvest tablescape—table runner & placemats from Ikea, plates from Pioneer Woman (Walmart), print napkins and silverware from World Market, bowls and burnt orange napkins from HomeGoods.

Dining table as it gets darker outside. Loving the pillar candles from Hearth and Home collection at Target.

Dining table as it gets darker outside. Loving the pillar candles from Hearth and Home collection at Target.

Food fit for a crowd

We host friends and family. A lot.  Often, I am quickly throwing together a dinner party, but when I hatched the idea to invite a dozen friends to visit for Homecoming weekend, I knew I needed to be organized in planning—many friends were coming from a distance (East Coast, West Coast, and even Europe!). I couldn’t potluck this shindig.  

Though I did enlist help from a close friend who also happens to be Italian and a fantastic cook.  No joke, she made homemade lasagna (noodles and everything) and traveled 2 hours with them on ice along along with a delicious Italian Cassata cake from Mannino’s Bakery in Detroit.  She also brought Italian bread and real deal mediterranean olives and parmesan and Romano cheese from a speciality grocery store. I promise, I did make a few things—homemade meatballs, salad, and steamed green beans (I really like the French green beans from Costco, also great for feeding a crowd).  

I think we’re all more likely to host if we say yes when people ask to help.  Obviously, this doesn’t work when people are travelling on planes or super long distances, but when in-state friends asked if they could bring things, I said yes.  And it was a huge help to me—fresh fruit, even bottles of wine, snacks from Costco and Trader Joe’s (places that I can’t readily shop) were a great addition to the festivities.  

Side note: We’ve lived in a small town for the last seven years, and there are so many things that I love (living close to everything—school, work, friends, church—you really develop daily community in a way that is more challenging in a bigger city).  But, I do miss the Cleveland food scene.  Specialty grocery stores, bakeries and ethnic food that I took for granted, oh how I miss you!  

Homecoming weekend menu:

  • Friday dinner: Artisan cheeses, crackers, assorted olives, homemade lasagna, sauce, meatballs, green beans, Italian bread, Italian Cassata cake 

  • Saturday breakfast: Ham & veggie egg bake, fresh fruit, coffee and toast

  • Saturday lunch: A la carte—cold cut sandwiches and such

  • Saturday dinner:  Barbecued chicken, pulled pork, grilled hot dogs, assorted salads, baked beans, dips (one of my favorite easy go to dips is Costco’s prepared spinach artichoke dip) and a variety of potato and corn chips, salsa, etc…

When feeding a crowd, I often choose desserts that are plentiful and not overly complicated. As I’ve mentioned before, we’re nearly 90 minutes from the nearest bigger city (Ann Arbor is my go to) and so buying desserts is not a great option for me).  Thus, my friend carted a cassata cake all the way from Detroit for our Friday dinner! For Saturday evening, I had my mom make the Pioneer Woman’s chocolate sheet cake.  Everyone always loves a bit of chocolate, and this recipe feeds a crowd.  

PSA: Along with Ina Garten, the Pioneer Woman is one of my go to’s for recipes.  She cooks for a crowd, people always enjoy her recipes and they’re mostly fail proof!  Don’t believe me, check out Jennifer Garner’s#PretendCookingShow.  By the way, I want a pretend cooking show!  

 A friend who lives in town brought these Pumpkin bars (seriously, I have made this recipe three times since last month).  Delicious and not labor intensive.  It reminds me of pumpkin roll, but easier.  No trying to gingerly remove from the pan, cool and roll.  Just fill pan with batter, bake, cool and frost!  

Pumpkin cake —I wish I had a better photo. I promise, it feeds a crowd and is delicious. Way better than the photo depicts.

Pumpkin cake—I wish I had a better photo. I promise, it feeds a crowd and is delicious. Way better than the photo depicts.

Pumpkin cake topped with  cream cheese frosting .

Pumpkin cake topped with cream cheese frosting.

As October is quickly drawing to a close, holiday prep is on many of our minds.  From décor to menu planning to strategies for getting the house in order, it can seem like a daunting task.  I think it’s often so overwhelming many of us choose not to do it.  But my encouragement for today is that yes, it requires some extra work, but gathering friends and family over the years has been the most rewarding “work” I have ever done.  Don’t let your house or fear of feeding a crowd keep you from gathering people.  Memories and friendships really do begin around the table.  

Thanks again for Tree Classics for sponsoring this blog hop, Treasured Celebrations. Starting next Monday, October 29th, these other bloggers will be joining me, sharing their home decor and fall traditions: Emily of, Monday, October 29, Kathy of on Tuesday October 30th, Kendra of on Thursday, November 1st, and Kaitlyn of @freshandvintageliving | on Friday, November 2nd! And of course, I would love to hear about your fall gatherings and traditions!

Celebrating our 20th college reunion & 24 years of friendship! So thankful for these women and the rich heritage we have built.

Celebrating our 20th college reunion & 24 years of friendship! So thankful for these women and the rich heritage we have built.

Join us as tree classics kicks of the holiday season with our treasured celebrations blog hop! Each of us will be offering our design ideas for creating a welcoming fall home.

Join us as tree classics kicks of the holiday season with our treasured celebrations blog hop! Each of us will be offering our design ideas for creating a welcoming fall home.

It All Begins at the Dining Table

It All Begins at the Dining Table

I’m not particularly trendy or cutting edge with my cooking, my approach to feeding people is—keep the kitchen stocked with good food & your doors open.  If you feed them, they will come. : ) Sometimes it’s fancy feasting, but most of the time it’s simply an open invitation to come and sit, have a cup of coffee, a biscotti (or whatever I can pull together), and chat about life. 

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