Things I can't stop talking about: 3/11/19

Brunch—This may be one of my favorite meals. Photo by Rachel Cuthbert Photgraphy

Brunch—This may be one of my favorite meals. Photo by Rachel Cuthbert Photgraphy

Here’s a very “recipe heavy” list of things I can’t stop talking about. Clearly the end of winter, beginning of Lent is a good time for cooking.

One. Brunch with friends. I realize this is something I discuss often, but it’s because I believe that shared meals are a fundamental part of relationships—whether with friends or family. Recently I gathered with a few friends for a birthday celebration. I brought a crustless bacon, mushroom, and onion quiche.

REcipe & Photo from Epicurious , PHoto by Romulo Yanes. Delicious!

REcipe & Photo from Epicurious, PHoto by Romulo Yanes. Delicious!

I’ve been looking for a good crustless quiche recipe and was pleased when I happened upon this Epicurious recipe.  Like many comments suggested, I added a 5th egg.  Also, I did not have heavy cream on hand so I used whole milk and half/half.  I also added 3/4 cup of crumbled bacon & I used a mix of gruyere and cheddar cheese that I had in the fridge.  I love a recipe where I can improvise a bit.  

Two. Paczki: Ahh, Fat Tuesday, thank you for giving us an excuse to eat fried dough filled with creamy, sweet deliciousness. 

And for the first time ever, I made my own and I’m sold. I used this recipe (it made about 4 1/2 dozen small Paczki). It wasn’t difficult as much as time consuming. I started the dough around 3 p.m., and we were frying them by 8 p.m. at night. I also made dinner in between, so there was a time lapse. I suggest making it a family affair. My husband fried the donuts, I took them out and drained them, and my mom rolled them in powdered sugar and filled them. We made custard, lemon filling, and raspberry preserve Paczki.

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Three. This quick homemade mac-n-cheese recipe. You cook the pasta in the water & milk and then add cheese. Brilliant! And literally took less than 30 minutes. My husband shredded the cheese so that was a huge help. Also, the blogger recommends not using pre-shredded cheese because it’s coated to keep it from clumping in the bag. Totally agree. Finally, if you want to take it to the next level, I suggest using a quality cheddar. A family favorite is the white, extra sharp from Cabot cheese. You can buy it in large blocks at Walmart and Costco. I also added a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce based on a recommendation. Definitely adds to the flavor!

My old school system for filing recipes. Three ring binder, Masking Tape & Sharpie.

My old school system for filing recipes. Three ring binder, Masking Tape & Sharpie.

Four. This is a bit of rabbit trail, but… printing recipes. For longer than I would like to admit, our printer was broken. Seriously, why didn’t we replace it?  I was always looking up recipes online and cooking via my phone or computer. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of online recipes. They are amazingly convenient, and I find all the comments & feedback helpful.  

However, I do not love reading/cooking from them. My screen saver always turns on, then inevitably my screen gets dirty, and soon enough I forget where I found  my “favorite” recipe.  I also like writing cooking notes on my recipes. Needless to say, I was delighted when my MIL gifted me with a new printer.  I love quickly printing a recipe and adding it to my recipe binder.

Finally, here’s my very rudimentary system for storing recipes.  I don’t have the patience for label printers, so a sharpie and masking tape it is! 

I always love hearing favorite weeknight recipes and people organize recipes, so please share.

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.

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

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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.   

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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.   

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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

Pizzelle Cookie Recipe

Pizzelle Cookie Recipe

I’m feeling particularly nostalgic this Mother’s Day. April would have marked my grandmother’s 91 st birthday—she passed way in October. I’m incredibly grateful for the 40+ years that I had with her, and when Tree Classics asked me to share an heirloom recipe I knew this was the perfect opportunity to explore her recipe box. It didn’t take me long to settle on making her pizzelle cookies. I can’t remember a holiday without them, and hers were my absolute favorite.

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