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Ball Jars, I love ya!

…so much, in fact, that I cannot stop buying you, no matter how many of you I have piled up everywhere.

My affinity for Ball Jars is rooted in their unprentious, simple beauty and seemingly ENDLESS utility.  But it’s also rooted in my roots:  Karrie and I grew up in Muncie, Indiana…  the Midwestern town where Ball Corporation was headquartered from 1887 to 1998.

My grandmother, mother, father, and just about everyone else in town worked at Ball Corp, and I have vivid memories of bee-bopping down the halls of those offices as a kid, and saying hello to all my parents’ friends.

Everyone I know was born at Ball Hospital.  Our tiny K-12 school was on Ball State campus.  My grandparents still have renderings of Ball canning jars on their walls.  My parents met at Ball Corp.  I played my high school volleyball games at Ball Gym.  You get the idea.  Ball everything runs rampant in our small town; as a result of which, these sparkly wonders have become woven into the fabric of my existence.

When I was a kid, my mom and I would curl up in a big afghan on Sunday afternoons, watch movies, and drink milk out of frosty Ball jugs.  Wassup, Jayne!

My dad’s side of the family, who live up in the mountains of North Carolina, can more homegrown fruits & veggies every year than Heinz has pickles.  My grandmother’s basement in Asheville is lined with walls and walls… and more walls… of homegrown goodies, encased in Ball jars.

And no.  That ruffled retro lady above isn’t my canning Nanny.  But this is.  She’s just about the cutest, funniest little person that ever lived.

My dad (aka Stevie B…  otherwise known as Big Pimpin in this picture) plants a huuuuugge garden every year…

….and at the end of the summer, cans enough raspberry jam and green beans to feed a small country.

When I went off to college, I packed up a few picture frames, some butt-ugly clothes I wouldn’t be caught dead in today, and naturally, a few glistening, blue Ball Jars to remind me of home.  For the last 10 years, those jars have made every move with me, because somehow, they always manage to put themselves to good use, and they always look pretty doing it.

How can you use them in YOUR house?  Oh, Honey.  Let me count the ways…

1.  First off, they’re made for canning.  Duh.

2.  As previously mentioned on about 105 different occasions, they’re dee-lightful to drink out of.

Sidenote:  You could even sit out {a little carafe (filled with water) + wide mouth Ball Jar combo} on a tray, on a bedside table, for overnight guests.  Like ah-ZEESE (!)

3.  They’re GUH-GUH-GORGEOUS as votives…  especially when you use oodles of them in various shapes and sizes…  light ’em at night, or hang ’em from the trees, and you’re in biz-nass.

PS: my cousin Jill went to a wedding recently, and said they had about 250 of the QUILTED jelly jars below lit up with votives, and lining the path to the reception…  Which is exceptionally awesome, because the textured glass reflects the candlelight.  Yummy.  Jill also loves these little guys as wine glasses around the house.

4.  For some very clever indoor lighting, click here for archival Design*Sponge instructions on how to make this glorious chandelier.

5.  You can fill ’em with sweet stuff, and put ’em on your entry table…  or, for those of you who occasionally wake up with cookie dough in your hair like I do, you can also sit ’em on your bedside table.  Whatever floats your boat.

6.  You could make like my college boyfriend – who was always doing something rotten enough to get himself busted – and fill ’em with flowers.  EVERYTHING looks pretty against that aqua glass.

7.  Use ’em as dirt squirts.  I saw these soap dispensers recently on Etsy.  I would SO stick these in the bathrooms of my lake house, cabin, farmhouse or country house.  You know, the one I don’t have yet.

8.  For all you crafty folk, your knitting needles just found a home…  If you’re not a knitter, don’t make that face.  Knitting is so back in action these days.  Or, just pretend those are pens & pencils, and put them on your desk.

9.  Entertaining buffet style?  Put all your smallish fixins in these little guys…  Shaved almonds, sesame seeds, sea salt, fresh herbs…

10.  Last but not least, stash all the dough you just saved by repurposing your old canning jars in…  you guessed it!  A piggy bank.

Finding a new use for an old thing – especially one dripping with nostalgia – is my idea of a bang-up time.  So if you’ve got ’em lying around in storage, dust ’em off.  And if you’re on the hunt, keep the following things in mind:

1.  Wide mouth jars are easiest to drink out of (top left).  I would not spend more than $1 each for these.

2.  For the aqua ones that are in good shape (bottom left) – twist off lid or no lid – I wouldn’t spend more than $5-$6 a piece.  The ones with the glass lids (top right) will be closer to $10.  In any case, the ones with lids make good bathroom containers for cotton balls, Q-tips, etc.

3.  Any abnormal colors, like the grassy green ones (bottom right in the frame above), or amber-toned ones, will cost a smidge more.  If I remember correctly, the funky-colored ones were either limited editions, or just beautiful mistakes.  I saw a REALLY unusual green one recently for $75.  Similarly, this one below is $45 on Ebay.  Gitty up.

4.  But, beware of the technicolor “coated & baked” ones.  You can’t put anything fun inside them, and they’re not dishwasher safe.  Homey don’t play dat.


Holiday Gift Guide: for Dudes

{all images via here}

Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood mornin’ and HO-LY pajamas, that’s a good way to start a post.  GYAH.  Who needs a towel?  …Just kidding Mom.  Anyhoo – when it comes to buying for boys, listen.  I’m not saying I have the key to One-Eyed Willie or anything, but what’s with all the hokey, stereotypical “manly man” gifts I keep seeing this year on gift guides for guys?  Wood grain cufflinks (whaaaaaaat?), wine-glasses-inside-a-beer-glass (wait, who?) and every useless object you could possibly imagine in the shape of a gun (why, why why).  The list goes on.  So, I don’t presume to know exactly what guys want for Christmas, but I’d betcha my left nut it’s not any of those things.  So since I wanted to dole out some tried & true, testosterone-approved options, I enlisted the help of my other half to help me edit and round out my list.  Because he’s a down-to-earth guy’s guy – loves beer & sweatpants & Ohio State Football, but he also has the snobbiest most spot-on taste of ANY person I know.  Heeeeey, Sugar hey!

Matty’s the best…  just ask Tim.  Now then:  hold please while I beat my chest and prepare to unleash this bomb diggity list……………………………………

1. The BIG GREEN EGG.  Also code for a big green wad of cash, so this is definitely an investment.  Generally speaking, they run from the $300’s on the low end (for the mini) to almost $1200 on the higher end for the XL Heavy Duty.  Apparently, this thing can do anything…  slow roast a Thanksgiving Day turkey, smoke a brisket, or sear a steak (temperatures can hold steady at 200 and get above 600).  A lot of the hubbub comes from the fact that the shell is ceramic…  therefore it holds heat perfectly inside without temperature fluctuations, but even at its highest temp is still cool to the touch outside.  My former boss told me it was the best thing he’s ever bought in his entire life.

2. The ART OF SHAVING 4 ELEMENTS OF THE PERFECT SHAVE KIT, $60.  When I first saw this, I thought it was one of those hokey gifts rigged to be a default item for holiday shoppers not knowing what to get the men in their life…  almost like the boy-version of the Bath & Body Works Sun-Ripened Raspberry gift basket, popular the world over circa 1997.  But then, this dapper kit got the unsolicited endorsement of one very sophisticated gent we know.  He said that if you have 20 minutes to spend shaving (for a big interview, special occasion, whatever) then it will literally be THE best and smoothest shave you’ve ever had.  A little luxury for the boys doesn’t hurt, eh?

3.  BILLY REID ‘JACKSON’ SHAWL COLLAR SWEATSHIRT, $195.  Kinda casual, kinda woodsy, kinda preppy, and ultra dilf-y.  Yeah, I said it. The sweatshirt dresses it down, but the shawl collar dresses it back up a little – so it’s perfect for your family’s Christmas party or for a snazzy dinner on the town.  Or, while he chops down a tree in the front yard.  So versatile it might as well be an LBD for men.

4.  PLAYBOY’S GREATEST COVERS, $24.  Selected by Hef himself out of all the covers from 1953 to today, and with a foreword by Pamela Anderson.  I’d love to roll my eyes, but I did just say “DILF” up above.  Matt calls it “the gift that keeps on giving.”  Truth be told, I suppose it’s a pretty cool, historic piece of American pop culture.  Did I just say that outloud??  This blog post will self-destruct in 5 seconds.

5.  ARC’TERYX THETA SL HYBRID JACKET, $369.  The website says, “Lightweight, packable, waterproof GORE-TEX® jacket, designed for emergency storm-protection in inclement weather.”  Matt – whose Mom bought him one years back – says, “It’s far better quality than North Face or Columbia, but they’re just a Canadian brand still flying under the radar.  And it’s colder up there, so those guys definitely know what they’re doing.”  Bahhaha, I’ll take it.  And after having walked Gus in it for an hour in frigid weather recently, I say:  “Light as a feather but surprisingly keeps you as warm as if you were rolled up in a giant blanket in front of the fire.  That thing is money.”  BANG.

6. MAPS ROCKS GLASSES, $25 per pair.  11oz each and etched with custom wraparound street maps of the following cities:  Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, South Boston, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland OR, San Francisco, and Washington DC.  I *also* heard a little rumor that custom locations are available…  how cool is that??  And I’m a jerk, because I just checked back and they’re sold out through January.  Sorry about that, guys.  So maybe it’s something to keep in the think tank for his birthday (?!)  I don’t know that these are something a guy would go out and purchase for himself, but he’ll definitely appreciate the understated, minimalist edge you just graced his cabinets & cocktails with.

7. Wait, what’s that in the glass up there??  Could it be FIREBALL CINNAMON WHISKY?  Do yourself a favor and pick up a little bottle of this at your local liquor store for your favorite guy.  One cold, rainy night in Columbus, we took home a bottle at the suggestion of the cashier on duty when we asked him what would warm us up.  We also mixed it with some kind of amber beer that night, which was good, but it’s also delightful just to sip (“SIP” being the operative word) on its own.

PS, If you wanted to get really creative, you could gift him a little package with:  a) The Fireball Whisky, b) The Mixers – and here are some recipe suggestions, and c) The set of Rocks glasses.  But since they’re currently sold out, a set of my old faithfuls would do the trick…  $12.99 for a 12-pack.

8.  MICHAEL KORS CASHMERE SCARF, $135.  In dark camel or in black. Yum.

9.  TICKETS TO SOMETHING AWESOME – a concert (e.g., the Stones are playing in Jersey this weekend!), a sporting event (Bowl game?), or a wheelbarrow race – whatever.  Anything he loves.

10.  UGG ASCOT SUEDE MOCCASIONS, $110. THESE. ARE. HEAVEN. And I cannot stop buying them for everyone I know.  He can wear ’em around the house, or around the corner to Sunday brunch.

11.  MANLY-MAN CANDLESVoluspa’s Suede Blanc (my favorite, $27) and Diptyque’s Feu de Bois (Karrie’s favorite, $60) are two of *THE* best ones out there.  One whiff and you’ll be on the bandwagon.  This is another something that I doubt they’d buy for themselves, but boys like their houses to smell good & clean, too.  And yo – the standard “vanilla”‘s gettin’ a little old, right?

12.  WEBER STYLE 6445 STAINLESS 3-PIECE BARBEQUE TOOL SET, $35.  How can your pops, brother, grandpa and hubby flip steaks without ’em?

13.  WEEKEND SHIRTS3/4 Sleeve Raglan Henley, $22 and J.Crew Oxford Buffalo Check Shirt, $75.  I own the one on the left, and it is nubby paper-thin perfection.  Fits boys better, but I like it to sleep in.  Good staple to stock-up on at that price, too.

14.  BOSE QUIET COMFORT NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES, $299.95.  Since I don’t know diddle about boy-techie-stuff, I had to have Matt weigh-in on these.  And his breakdown went something like this:  “So, you know how everybody knows Samsung makes the best TV’s?  (insert blank stare on my part…)  Well Bose makes the best headphones and sound systems.  And the noise cancelling ones would be awesome if you’re traveling.”

All I needed to know.  Who doesn’t wanna drown out the sound of the screaming toddler next to you on the plane?  Or, maybe you got lucky and got seated next to this guy:


Cushioned Argyle Socks, Set of 3 in assorted colors, $22 | Mustache Coasters, $10 | Two of *THE* most swoon-worthy men’s colognes on the market – Versace Eau Fraiche and Tom Ford Noir | Homeland Season 1 DVD…  aka the best show on television.  Stop what you’re doing immediately and start watching it if you haven’t already. | Alexander McQueen skull tie – Karrie’s pick.  She says:  “There’s a hint of sophistication, and a hint of edge – just like I like my men.” Rawr. | Last but not least…  an old-fashioned mixed tape…  because making someone a homemade mash-up will never go out of style.

Happy Shopping!!


Steph, Karrie, and our trusty guest-blogger, Matt