Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Scratching the Surface #windowschampions

I have never, until this month, written a sponsored post. It's not that I'm against them, I just haven't found things really worth talking about. And then last fall, Microsoft asked me to test drive the new Surface tablet as part of their Windows Champions program. They were kind enough to loan and ship me a shiny new Surface, and I just couldn't say no!

Full disclaimer here: I've been a Mac user for over 10 years. In fact, since I was in my first year of university 10 years ago, I have only ever owned a Mac. I get to work on a PC at my day job, but my usage of it is very limited. I've always wondered what it would be like to own a PC, especially now with their new software. Hopefully I will find out over the next few months, but let's start with first impressions!

If you haven't seen this commercial yet, take a looksie. Like many, this was my first introduction to Windows 8.  I love the commercial in every way. It really feels like Microsoft is approaching Windows 8 and Surface in the right way. And, what's not to love about this Lenka song.

Although it would be hard not to take notice of the catchy commercials and product placements, I was particularly drawn in when one of the final episodes of Gossip Girl had Serena Van der Woodsen cooking from a recipe displayed on her Surface. I might not have the chance to prepare a meal in an Upper East Side penthouse, nor would I be able to purchase even a single outfit from her wardrobe, but if Serena and I can be Surface sisters, I will take what I can get. Count me in!

After a bit of a hold up at the border, I received my package earlier this month and eagerly started to explore it. It solves all of the issues I have with my iPad. Not having a case or stand nearby, I'm often frustrated trying to follow a recipe on my iPad, using tea towels and dishes to prop it up. The built-in kickstand is the perfect, "why hasn't this been thought of before" solution. Speaking of which, the cover. Oh, the cover. Another "why doesn't my iPad have this?" feature, the keyboard-cover is both sleek and functional and graceful to type on (no chipped manicures here!).

One thing that doesn't translate well in the marketing materials is what the other side of the cover looks like. I didn't have high expectations as my iPad Smart Case is nothing I'd rave about. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the Surface cover. The charcoal felt-like material feels both luxurious and durable at once. In fact, it is aesthetically my favourite part of the entire shebang.

Tack on some pretty amazing apps and a full Office suite, and the Surface is certainly something to write home about. If you already have an iPad, there's obviously no sense in buying something so similar, however if you haven't taken the foray in the tablet digital world yet, and want something functional with more features than just a tablet, the Surface may be just right for you. It really combines the convenience of a portable tablet, with the function of a laptop, which is a lot more than I can say for my iPad.

Disclosure: I am a Windows Champions Blogger for 2013. As part of my participation in the program I will have the opportunity to try out new products and promotions. As always, 100% of opinions are my own.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Social Supper Club | Recipes to Try, Love, Tweak and Freeze

It's funny. People tend to feel sorry for me when they find out I've cut out dairy. They instantly think I've made some big sacrifice and that I must be a woman of will power to give up delicious dairy delights. Truth is, I've never felt so inspired and culinarily liberated (and yes, I know that's not a real word, but I'm using it anyways!). Instead of not-so-healthy quick dinners like pasta, spanokopita, and grilled cheese, I actually make real meals. With real food. From scratch. And the flavours and dishes I get to enjoy because of that are so much more varied and flavourful than any other dinners I've cooked for myself. And it's not just here and there. Almost every night of the week I'm inspired to try a new recipe. I love cooking like never before. I love shopping for fresh ingredients. And, I especially love when the things I make are so. much. more. satisfying. than a cheese quesadilla.

Since I'm cooking for one here (the mister has yet to turn to the green dark side), and most recipes are not just single servings, I am finding myself freezing more and more. It works really well for me, because although I enjoy the meals I make, I like to take a few day breather in between repeat suppers. Freezing is just the bee's knees.

Frozen or not, I wanted to share with you my favourite recipes I tried this week. It's one thing to see a recipe on Pinterest, and it's another to hear a personal review of how the recipes came together and what tweaks could be made on the original.

Because I'm a dessert for breakfast kind of girl, it's fitting that these delectable bites from Texanerin go first.

I once made a "cookie dough dip" using chickpeas and was unimpressed. After seeing the ingredient list on this recipe, I really had low expectations for the finished product. Alas, I gave it a whirl, because it's been a good year or so since I've indulged in that "fresh out of the oven" chocolate chip goodness experience. Although at this point, a handful of chocolate chips alone would seem like a treat, I must say these passed the test with flying colours. OH. EM. GEE. So good. As stated in the recipe, they are BEST warm and gooey, although they weren't too bad cold the next day. I wish I could say I only ate one, but then I would be a liar. These are actually too tempting to make on a regular basis because it's really easy to eat half of the batch. Or all...

Tweaks: Can sub agave nectar for honey for true vegan. Instead of canned, I cooked chick peas in slow cooker the day before.
Pros: Delicious. Low guilt level. Short ingredient list, with good for you ingredients. Ingredients should mostly be on hand. Freeze well and taste just as yummy after a trip in the microwave.
Cons: Too tasty to make often. Need a food processor to make.
Freezer Friendliness: Yes ma'am! If only they could stay in the freezer and not in my belly.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Let's move away from desserts for a bit and go to dinner. I pinned these a while ago because they just looked very satisfying. I also liked that they combined sweet potatoes and black beans, which are both super nutritious and healthy for you. I am not a meat eater, obviously, but I would venture to say that black beans and sweet potatoes make an excellent meat alternative in terms of satisfaction and satiety. Great option for a Meatless Monday!

I followed the recipe almost to a tee, except I had an already cooked sweet potato I slow cooked the day before with skin on. I cut it up, but when mixed in with the filling, the cubes I had cut completely mushed in with the other veg. I was very happy with the "mashed" sweet potato as it kept all the filling together. I was able to make 9 burritos, which I wrapped in foil, then again in saran, and then placed two to a freezer bag before freezing. OK, I only froze 7 because I ate 2. Because they were that good. And I skipped lunch. Anyways...verdict? These are so delicious, and I will definitely be rotating them in. I love that I can make a big batch and freeze for later. They taste like something that belongs in a restaurant. Yummmmers.

Tweaks: Used already cooked sweet potato (didn't cook again, just added to the bean mixture) and used Daiya shredded "cheese", which was delicious, despite not usually liking it. Used less cheese than called for. Added 6 sliced grape tomatoes to the wraps I was eating instantly (did not use in freezer version). Used more filling than suggested (heaping 1/4 cup).
Pros: So very yummy and satisfying. Affordable ingredients and can make extra for future meals.
Cons: Can't think of any, really. I needed to buy jalapenos because those aren't a staple in our house, but I guess that's not really a con.
Freezer Friendliness: I just made and froze tonight so the verdict is still out. The recipe page does mention being able to freeze the filling, so I can't see why freezing the entire wrap wouldn't work. I usually buy my tortillas at Costco and freeze them, and the shredded cheese was already frozen, so despite lack of personal results, I'm going to give this a thumbs up!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Now that you've got mexi spice and savoury on the brain, let's round out the flavours with some sweet. Apple butter jeans, boots with the fur, with the fur! OK, clearly the entire time I made this apple butter, that song was running through my head... oh dear.

I was so lucky to have gone to our "super close and convenient but overpriced" market on a whim, to see they had a HUGE sale on organic apples. All different varieties, just $1 a pound (usually $2.49/lb). I must've bought at least 25 pounds, and I may go back for more. I love me some apples, especially when they're local and organic (PS- where do apples grow in BC in the winter? I do not know....). Although I found ways to store apples for longer periods of time, I thought I may need to figure out a way to preserve a portion of them. Having seen the apple butter recipe on one of my favourite blogs, Oh She Glows, I thought it was the perfect time to give it a whirl and put my new slow cooker to work. I had never heard of apple butter prior to this recipe, but my oh my is it great. Since I've cut out most sweeteners (refined sugar, artificial, etc) its really nice to have this naturally sweet apple butter on hand for smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, and more.

Tweaks: None! Just used about 5 different kinds of apples I had from my "apple splurge".
Pros: Really fool proof and easy to make. Very tasty. Seriously teeny ingredient list. Healthy, natural ingredients.
Cons: Requires a slow cooker (can make on stove top but would be more difficult) and a really good blender or vita mix. Need to be around to stir apples so would have to be on a day/night off where you can tend to the kitchen for 5+ hours.
Freezer Friendliness: Commenters say yes! I have yet to freeze, but know I will have to because I don't think I'll get through it all in 3 weeks. As per most "saucy" things, I plan to freeze in ice cube trays, then once frozen pop into a freezer container. That way, I can take out a few cubes a week or as needed :)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

If you're a fan of Mediterranean food, then this one is for you! Whether you're trying out a plant-based diet, or just looking for an occasional meatless dish, this is one you should add to your rotation.

I've always loved falafel, but most of the time it's fried. I like this baked recipe because of the reduced fat content, but also because of the inclusion of spinach, which certainly ups the nutrient factor! I made both the falafel and the tzatziki in my food processor, and from start to finish was less than an hour. While the falafal are baking, make the tzatziki, then clean up, and you're good to go! The best part? You can eat these on their own, or put in a warp or pita pocket for your filling protein fix. Even if you are a dairy-consumer, give this tzatziki a try! I thought it was delish (and would consider myself a tzatziki connoisseur!).

Tweaks: I used dried herbs because I just find it's a more economical solution for me.
Pros: Not too hard to make. If you plan your time right, both can be made and ready to consume in under an hour. Seriously tasty. Full of fibre, protein, and healthy fats.
Cons: A bit messy to make, but good things are worth a bit of a mess.
Freezer friendliness: YES! I froze the tzatziki in an ice cube tray (of course, I did) and was really not sure how well they would do. Well, colour me surprised, they actually worked! I took a few cubes out for dinner a couple nights ago and defrosted them and the sauce turned out perfectly. The falafel also freezes fantastically.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

There were some other great dishes I whipped up last week, but I fear this post is dragging on. I will have to save those for another edition of Social Supper Club :)

Now your turn! What recipes have you tried out lately that have surprised you or been worth sharing?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Healthy Home | Super Easy, Healthy Snack Bars

One personal goal I am happy to say I have achieved is to reduce my usage of packaged foods. I'm not going to lie, there were probably times in my life where I could count on both hands the amount of packaged food items I would consume in a day. I'm happy to say that now, the packaged goods industry is lucky if I use even one a week.

I understand how convenient pre-packaged foods are. Not being a parent (yet), I can only imagine the time crunch when you have busy kids and the need for quick and easy solutions. That being said, I had no idea how simple making your own food and snacks could be, especially when you prepare a lot and preserve (either by way of freezing or canning).

 It's gotten to the point where packaged foods make me angry. Going to a New Years party bringing my favourite dip, I knew I needed something crunchy to dip in it. I walked down the cracker aisle, and was plain mad! A teeny box of baguette crackers (crostinis) were $4! Four dollars! The amount of crackers would probably amount to that of 1/4 a baguette. For $1, I can buy an entire baguette. And that's just what I did. Way less packaging, way less preservatives and random ingredients I can't pronounce, and way more bang for my buck. I sliced that baby all the way to crostini town, and with a short visit to the oven, they were perfect olive-oil brushed crackers ready for my dip. Now, clearly I haven't gone off the deep end and am still buying bakery bread, but who knows, one day I may even bake my own. The point here is, when you walk down those grocery aisles, really take in what you're seeing. What are you getting for your money? How much time are you actually saving? How much better would it feel to make your own and save money to boot?

Although I've never been a big consumer of granola or protein bars, I have a feeling that when I do have little ones, this will be a helpful, on the go snack to keep tummy grumbles at bay. And heck, there are certainly times where I don't have time for a proper brekky, and we all know that hunger leads to bad choices. There are lots of homemade protein/snack/granola bars on the Internet, but I decided to give it a whirl on my own to see what I could concoct with ingredients in my pantry. Best of all, if you want to recreate, I really think any substitutions here will work. I've tried variants of this recipe making single serve Larabar-esque treats in my Nutribullet and everything I've thrown in there still tastes good. This was my first time making a larger batch, however, so I used my handy dandy Cuisinart food processor.

The best part? Just throw it all in (less the moist ingredients) and go! I wanted to add some protein-boosting hemp hearts to my energy bars, but they do add a little hempy flavour. Feel free to omit these if you don't like hemp hearts or don't have any on hand, and the result will almost taste like cookie dough. For reals. These bars with the hemp hearts and flax seeds actually remind me of a grain bar at Starbucks... can't remember the name of it but it's mighty tasty!

"Everything but the Kitchen Sink" Healthy Snack Bars



1/2 cup rolled oats (I used gf)
1/3 cup quinoa flakes (may sub more rolled oats)
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup cashews
1/3 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup chia, flax, buckwheat blend
5 tbsp hemp hearts
1 tsp cinnamon
Dash of sea salt


1 cup (125 grams) dates - honey or medjool- soaked in hot water for 5 minutes
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

Like I said, sub away! Use almonds, poppy seeds, raisins, whatever your pantry desires! I usually use medjool dates, but was running low so used the honey dates I store in the freezer for date emergencies. If you don't include dates on your grocery list, you don't know what you're missing. I use them every single day! I also don't buy sugar anymore. It's revolutionary!


To make, throw all of the dry ingredients in the food processor. Pulse until you get a grainy meal. When I use my Nutribullet milling blade I get a finer consistency, which is great for dessert balls and treats, however the grainier texture the food processor gives is better for a bar in my opinion.

Afterwards, drain the dates that you should soak while prepping the dry ingredients, and add to mixture with the vanilla extract. Pulse again to start, then leave on to process for 30-60 seconds. It's pretty fool proof so just pulse to desired consistency.

Lay your dough in a plastic wrap lined square casserole dish and push flat. Cover with more plastic wrap, push again, and put in freezer for half an hour. Remove, and cut into 12 squares or rectangles. AT this point, leave as is, or wrap each one individually. Store in the freezer unless you plan on gobbling them up within the week. I'm sure they'd last longer but just to be on the safe side.

Very very rough nutritional info per 1/12 of the mix is:

180 calories
10 grams healthy fats
5 grams fiber
5.25 grams protein
Carbs don't matter because, I just don't think they do (however can be easily calculated using process of elimination. Note: 1 gram fat = 9 cals, 1 gram protein or carb = 4 cals... handy info to know!).

Also, these bars are very moist/sticky (think Larabars), so could easily be stretched (I'd venture to say, doubled) by upping the oats. This will make them even more affordable and extra kid-friendly. Unfortunately, I ran out of oats so this was all I could do. The next batch I make I will try more oats and let you know how it works!

And for those wierdos like me, these are gluten-free, oil-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and raw.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Life Simplified | Reducing Stress over the Holidays with Valentine's Cards

I received this message from a reader last week and was so happy that Kristina reached out to me:

"Hi Jen!
I am a huge follower of your blog and absolutely LOVE all of the paper goods that you have created to make your house into a home. I saw when you had created a few Christmas cards on a bit of a whim for your readers to purchase from your blog, and have had them bookmarked ever since. Fabulous is all I can say! This year, life got the best of my schedule for the month of December so instead of overwhelming myself I put off holiday cards and decided that we would send out Valentine's cards this year to all of our loved ones. I have the professional photo already chosen and would love to pay for your talented design work to embellish the image. I understand that this is last minute but please let me know if you have the time and if this commisioned work interests you. Keep up the beautiful work!

I think many, many of us are in the same boat as Kristina. Perhaps you may have sent out Christmas cards, but later on realized you missed a bunch (or maybe you received cards from those you never sent cards to - oopsies!). Have no fear! Why not start a Valentine's card tradition?

I love this idea first and foremost because it certainly alleviates some stress around the holidays, but also because people anticipate receiving Christmas cards, taking some of the excitement out it. However, they most likely don't expect a Valentine's card in the mail. Such a sweet little surprise for an often times overlooked holiday. And what is Valentine's all about anyways? Spreading the L.O.V.E! So why not take a page out of Kristina's book and send some V-day Cards!

You can buy some boxed cards at the store, make your own with craft paper, or follow suit with the photo card idea! If you want a really affordable and easy way of doing it, check out my post here. If you'd like me to help you out*, I'll be listing Kristina's design on The Paper Society, and hope to roll out more in the next week or so.

Thanks for the great idea Kristina!

*For those wondering, I changed the price of the photo cards from $5 to $10 because of the amount of time it took to customize and work with each individual photo. Everyday is a learning experience!

Friday, January 18, 2013

What You Never Knew You Needed | Elizabeth and Clarke

I wanted to title this post "The Cuisinart Phenomenon: The act of living one way, until being introduced to a new, better way, and never being able to go back to the original way."  I figured I'd lose most of you before I even started. Why Cuisinart? Somehow I lived the ten years of my adult life without a Cuisinart food processor, but now that I have one, I cannot imagine my life without it. I use it every. single. day. Often times for us to realize the value or importance of something, we need to be introduced to it by someone passionate about it. Thank you to my passionate aunt and uncle for the Cuisinart; I now spread the word when I can, and recently gave my mother-in-law one for Christmas, because I don't know how she survived this long without one.

Enough about food processors. I'm here to change your life by letting you know about something you never knew you needed. But you do. As do I.

I would consider myself a "fashion conscious" dresser. I wish I could call myself a trendsetter, or a fashionista, but I'm not.  Just because I don't don all of the latest trends and fill my closet with Rag and Bone, doesn't mean I don't care. I want to look good. I want to look put together. I want to look effortlessly chic. But these things are hard to do when you spend more time reading shelter blogs than fashion glossies.

You may remember Melanie from her pantry feature here. I loved her pantry re-org so much that I asked to post her photos, and apparently you guys loved it to, because it's been pinned quite a bit! Melanie owns and operates Elizabeth & Clarke, a fabulous subscription box company, so when she asked if I wanted to give it a try, I jumped at the chance to get my first ever subscription box.

Here's a blurb from Melanie about Elizabeth & Clarke:

 "Why are you paying hundreds for a “designer” tee or blouse? Store rent, sales commissions, a huge marketing budget: all built into the cost of your $200 designer tee. Not at Elizabeth & Clarke. We built our company on the Internet to bypass the middleman. Now get the same designer tee or blouse, without the crazy markup. We use soft jersey, silky cotton ramie, or luxury, stain and wrinkle-resistant fabric blends in all of our shirts in the most essential colors: white, black, and gray. Convenience, value, and style – all in one box."

I loved the concept, but I'll be totally honest here and say I had my qualms. While I was really excited to receive my box, I was worried about how three shirts I'd never tried on before could a) all fit and b) all look good. If I go shopping and try on 10 shirts, I might only ever find one that actually works, so at a 10% success rate, what are the chances of all three working out for me?

Apparently, quite high. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know I'm a no-BS, cut to the chase, honest kind of girl. And just because Melanie was a label-customer, and was kind enough to send me her shirts to review, I have no hesitation in speaking the truth. I would expect the same from every blog I read.

To say I love the shirts is an understatement. They all fit fabulously, the fabrics are stunning, and each can be worn in so many ways that I practically lived in them over the holidays (and still do).

The icing on the cake? I probably would NEVER have thought to buy any of these pieces on my own accord. I'm so stuck in my ways and seem to buy the same pieces over and over again. E & C is built on the concept of getting your basics at a great price without having to search high and low, but for me, it's just getting the basics! Period.

The Browning

The Browning is amazing! I never would have thought that my closet needed it. But it does. I will never go another day without a comfy white flannel shirt that can be dressed down with jeans and tennis shoes, or dressed up with leggings and heels. One day, I wore it around the house and to run some errands, and later threw on a necklace and pumps and wore it out to dinner. It's the new Cuisinart food processor. 

The Bronte

The Bronte is also genius. Again, something I would never have picked off the rack for myself. Cinched with a belt, or left flowy, this shirt was my go-to dress shirt for Christmas parties and looked so chic paired with my black lace skirt and gold shoes. I tried to take photos for you guys, I did. But it was awkward. The hubby and I couldn't stop laughing. I look crazy in most. So please accept these photos of other less awkward people modelling the shirts from here on out.

The Stanton

The Stanton is a grey pocketed tee, and is SUPER soft. I mean, literally, THE softest tee you will ever lay fingers on. As much as I wanted to save it to wear out somewhere, I actually wore it to bed the night I got the box because I couldn't take it off. Divine. Don't worry, I washed it before wearing it out in public. Another basic that can be dressed up, down, in the middle, and even worn to bed. Again, a piece I might not have picked out (Melanie explains more about the paradox of choice here) and another shirt I'm so very happy I now have in my closet.

If having perfect basics (that will make you look like you have your own stylist) sent to your door each season isn't enough to sell you, how can you beat the price tag? $30 or less (if you order all three, it's by far the best deal!) is incredible. 

Follow Elizabeth & Clarke on Twitter and go say hi on their Facebook page!

Disclosure: Elizabeth & Clarke kindly gifted me a subscription box to review, however 100% of the opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Should you renovate a NEW home?

Most people think I am crazy for wanting to reno my near new townhouse. But not you. No, if you are here and reading this lil' blog, it's because you (like me) have an insatiable need to experience home beautification and perhaps your mind (like mine) is always consumed with how you can make your space better. Or at least that's what I'll tell myself.

Is my home new-ish? Yes. Is it beautiful? I think so. Is it ME? Not yet. Each project I undertake is a small step toward making this builder basic home more custom, more tailored to moi! The ever present argument I get from friends and family is twofold: 1) If you're only going to be in a "starter" townhome for a few years, why put money and effort into customizing it, when you could save those resources for your next DREAM home? and 2) What if the design decisions you make are not favourable to buyers when you choose to sell?

Well, I have thought about the first one. I have thought about having to one day leave behind my gorgeous carrerra marble backsplash when we ultimately sell this home; about eventually spending some big bucks for my sparkly new white kitchen cabinets only to leave them behind with some other lucky homeowner. But truth is, I don't know when we will be selling. I see us here for at least another couple years, if not more. So why not enjoy this lovely home, the way I want it to look like, for the next few years instead of hoarding my design materials and ideas for the next one? Life if short. Live it and enjoy it!

And finishing off with the last and more controversial argument, I truly (truly truly) feel that the non-recoverable changes I make to this home WILL help sell it. There are almost 200 townhomes in our one community, surrounded by over a thousand within a 2 mile radius, so setting our home apart from the others CAN'T be bad. I do not condone breaking the bank to customize a generic townhome in the hopes of flipping it for a much higher price, however. Working in real estate, I know this is not how it works. BUT when we do go to sell, ours will stand out from the others. Ours will hopefully sell quicker, and for closer to our asking price. So if we spend $5000 over 5 years customizing this home, I do not think it will affect our ability to sell, and actually believe the opposite. I know there is a wifey out there just DYING to have a white kitchen with a marble backsplash..... and so am I!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Make Your Own Inexpensive Decorative Balls

Okay, so this is a day late, but I did want to share this with you! For my guest post over at MPMK this month, I took one of my fave Pinterest crafts (the borax snowflake) and made it into a ball. Three balls actually. Super cheap and affordable vase fillers for the winter time, and a fun crafty DIY to try one day. What do you think?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life

When I first stumbled across Stephanie's blog Modern Parents Messy Kids, I read this post (if you haven't read it yet, it is a MUST read).

Like others, I had a visceral, emotional reaction. I was torn between admiration and resentment. I was not alone. Not one bit.

The post started a movement, and that movement has lead way to a fantastic book full of tips, tricks and sources to help simplify your life. And that's why we're all here, right? To simplify. To enjoy life, not to battle it.

From meal planning to laundry, this book is the answer many of us have been looking for. Sure, there is an abundance of helpful tips out there on the internet and on Pinterest, but it's overwhelming. To have the best and most useful information all in one place tied with a neat little bow, well, it doesn't get better than that.

And, at just $6.99, it's worth buying for yourself and telling everyone you know!

What are you waiting for? Go check out the book here

And if you are reading her post for the first time, or have read it in the past, what was your reaction?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Anthro-esque DIY Dollar Store Business Card Box

It's been a while since I've done a "Look What I Found at the Dolla Store" feature, so although this is just one item, let's add this to the list! If you can't find these at your local dollar store I'm pretty sure Michaels will have something similar, so save your coupons and make it a cheap "almost dollar store" buy.

Of course, it does require a bit of transformation to get it to it's final state, but it's an easy project.

When I came across these little boxes at Dollar Giant, they instantly reminded me of something I may find in an Anthropologie or a a stationery store. They are the perfect size for holding business cards on your desk, but I'm sure you could think of a million other things you could put in them. Lipstick. Coins. Tea Bags.

I bought both a rounded edge box, and a squared edge box, but I'll save the latter for another post! I didn't take a before photo (bad blogger!) but I found the square edged box on the Dollar Tree website.

I've painted enough wooden craft boxes in my lifetime to fill a room. I'm sure I'm not alone here, right? Every time I see one, I paint it, thinking it's going to look absolutely amazing and I will be able to display it for all the world to see. Truth is, it usually looks just like a cheap wood box painted with craft paint, and it usually ends up inside a cabinet somewhere playing home to my chequebooks and reciepts. Out of sight. This time, I wanted to do something different, so out with the paint, and in with the "homemade old wood" recipe!

I adapted the "recipe" for this since it's a small teeny tiny box. I used just one teabag, not steeped for more than a few minutes. I also used one steel wool pad,  just a cup of vinegar, and let that sit for just about 12 hours (the longer this mixture sits, the darker your wood will be).

It's such an easy and painless "painting" process because you're just dousing the box in liquid and there's no such thing as drips or a messy paint job. Do make sure you cover the entire box in both solutions though. Whatever you don't will remain the unfinished wood colour. Make sure to let the box dry between the tea and vinegar mixtures, and then let it fully dry before adding any other paint embellishments.

I thought the box could use a bit more panache, so I put my Silhouette to use and made my first ever stencil. I used vinyl, but I think next time I might try some of my thicker adhesive cardstock as the vinyl was a touch tricky to stencil with.

And par ce que everything sounds better in french, I decided to stencil "les cartes" instead of just "cards". Way more fun. Who knows if the French even refer to business cards as "les cartes", but it has a nice ring to it, mais non?

I just used a white craft paint to stencil with my Martha Stewart plopping sponges ( or whatever they're called). After the paint dried, I gave it a quick sand to add to that aged look, and then did a single coat of water-based poly. You'll see in the photo below that the sanding was also necessary because clearly I'm not a great stenciller.

And the verdict? I'm obsessed. I may only have a need for one business card holder, but I seriously want to go buy and refinish ten of these right now. They are just so stinking cute, and at $1.25 each, are about the cheapest bit of lovely I own right now. And with my new business cards being printed as we speak, I'm even more excited to bring them home and store them in a sweet place they can call their own.