2019 and Gift

2019 Holiday Gift Guide — Mary’s Favorite Things

Gift and 2019

If you woke up this morning with a sense of panic realizing there are just two weeks left until Christmas, let me offer some sweet relief—a compilation of my favorite things that I have purchased from my own money, with all details updated and now gathered into one convenient place.

You’re about to discover that my favorite things are mostly practical, which could explain why I prefer practical gifts. A new vacuum for Christmas? I’d be thrilled and delighted. All that to say that no doubt, My Favorite Things seriously reflect that personal bias. Enjoy!


A group of items on a table

cont’d below … 

1. Rowenta Steam Iron

This is one amazing steam iron. It is affordable, reliable and gives me great results consistently. It is comfortable to use and has enough heft to give a good press, has a super shiny stainless steel soleplate. The high steam rate blasts away wrinkles through its 400 micro steam holes. Auto shutoff has saved my bacon on a couple of occasions.

2. Anker SoundCore Bluetooth Speaker

This portable wireless speaker for iPhone, Samsung and more is just fantastic. It has a 24-hour playtime, 66-ft Bluetooth Range (which I test to its limits frequently) plus a built-in mic. And the sound quality is amazing. Sometimes I wonder how I ever got along without a quality, affordable wireless speaker like this one.

3. Instant Pot Duo Mini 3-qt.

It’s the most amazing thing—one kitchen appliance that replaces seven. That’s why it’s called Instant Pot 7-in-1. The manufacturer has come out with bigger models, and I do have the 6-qt Duo,  but this is the one I have, love and use almost every day. It’s the perfect size for 2 to 4 people. Right now the price is also super.

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4. iClever Boost Strip

This attractive charging station has 4 USB ports and 3 AC outlets. I use mine what seems like 24/7 because when I work I need so many things plugged in. You’d be amazed if you could see my desk right now. Something is plugged into every port. And I have one of these charging stations on each nightstand in our guest room. It’s the first thing guests mention—how convenient for each person to have their own place to plug-in and charge their devices.

5. Hoover Linx Cordless Stick Vac

 My favorite stick vac is powered by a mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery. That’s one of the secrets of this Hoover Linx’s awesomeness. A full charge not only holds power until I need to use it (I can store it anywhere in the house, not necessarily attached to its charger), it has a seemingly endless runtime because it hold its charge until used. I’m talking 30 minutes or longer of continuous use, too. With its replaceable battery and separate settings for carpet and wood, Linx is like an electric broom, dustpan and dust mop all in one. This is my go-to for quick cleanups.

6. Bath Towels

Bath towels and washcloths—big, thick, thirsty and ultra-soft. That’s what we want and we want them to stay that way for many years, right? Here they are, from Land’s End. Hint: As I write, a 6-piece towel set is half-price.

7. Shark Professional Liftaway Vacuum 

In the decade since I  met and fell in love with my first Shark upright vacuum, I’ve purchased, tested and worked nearly to death (it’s really hard to wear out a Shark) many Shark vacuums because the company comes out with a new model or two about every week, or so it seems. I can say with confidence, there is no better basic corded, upright vacuum cleaner on earth. My stick vac above does not replace this regular vacuum.

8. Black + Decker Cordless Hand Vac

This little sweetheart of a handheld vacuum is the best I have ever owned. That says a lot once you understand that prior to this gem, I had a Dyson handheld, an early Dustbuster, a Bissell model and a couple of other off-brand numbers. The problems were many, but the biggest one? Runtime. What’s the point of a cordless hand vac that only “vacs” for a few minutes? So annoying! But then this new Black + Decker Cordless Hand Vac with 16-volt Lithium battery came into my life. It’s the battery! Lithium is just the best thing that ever happened to the world of batteries for so many reasons, but mostly that it holds a charge until used. That gives this cordless vac a fabulously long runtime.

9. Foodsaver

My FoodSaver gets a workout every day. Depending on the type of food, I use FoodSaver containers and canisters, plastic bags and also canning jars to seal food items (this requires the jar sealer accessory). I vacuum seal raw rice, sugar, spices, meat; baked goods (I freeze them first so the vacuum doesn’t crush them), fresh fruits and vegetables. I even vacuum seal silver flatware to keep it from tarnishing. I vacuum-sealed my Birth Certificate and my Social Security card. It’s a really good thing.

10. Apple AirPods

If you knew how many pairs of earphones I’ve had in my life and either lost or couldn’t stand for one more minute—you would be amazed. So am I. Several years ago I purchased what might be my last set ever. My Airpods for iPhone, Macbook, and iPad are wonderful. Finally, earbuds (earphones) that work flawlessly. I cannot feel them in my years and these Airpods are super smart. Best thing ever.

11. Ring Video Doorbell 2

It’s cool and for me, absolutely necessary. When I am in the EC office which is located on the lower level and the doorbell rings on the main level, I can barely hear it let alone get there before the ringer leaves. But with my Ring Doorbell, I can see who’s there and I can even chat with him or her without leaving my desk. And if I’m in California or New York? Same thing I can see my visitor and have a chat at the same time. They have no idea I am not on-premises. Ring Doorbell 2 is Alexa Certified and so much more.

12. Breville Joule Sous Vide Cooker

My kids gave me this sous vide cooker for Christmas one year, and what a fabulous gift! I’ve learned a new way of preparing meat, poultry, even eggs—and it is amazing. If there’s a foodie on your list, sous vide cooking is almost certain to be in his or her future. This is The Gift!

13. Hamilton Beach Keep Warm Toaster

I love this toaster. Here are the reasons I am such a fan: The bread slots handle all thickness of things to be toated: Bagels, Texas toast, English Muffins, thin-sliced, regular-sized and even thin-sliced bread. It has a keep warm setting that keeps the toast warm but not overtoasted—for 3 additional minutes. Super inexpensive, too.

14. Olight Baton S1R 900 Lumen Flashlight

This is always securely tethered to my handbag. Just last week, as I got ready to deplane, I discovered one of my AirPods had fallen out of my ear! People were pushing hard to get off the plane, but I had to stop the exodus. I just couldn’t leave without finding it. I panicked slightly, then whipped out my tiny flashlight and set it to mega-blast. That thing lit up the area under the seat for rows in both directions! And there it was, tucked into the fold of the seat upholstery material. I would have never found it had it not been for my trusty Olight. So grateful! This darling has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and comes with a mini magnetic dock charger. Fabulous. My favorite! About $45.

15. JC Penney Liz Claiborne 600tc Sateen Sheet Set

I’ve tested and tried so many brands of sheets. Maybe I’m just a little bit too particular? I have my standards when it comes to bed linens. Finally, I found the best—JCPenney’s Liz Claiborne 100% cotton sateen (percale), luxurious and inexpensive when there’s a coupon code available—which is always. You’ll see this at checkout. Make sure you are logged into your Rakuten account, and you’ll get cashback, too. Prices vary by size. These sheets sleep like a dream and launder wonderfully.

A bunch of items that are on a table

16. O.P.I. Nail Polish

Oh, how I love this brand in this color (Lincoln Park After Dark)! I’m no pro when it comes to a home manicure, but this polish covers a multitude of “amateurities.” It’s long-lasting lacquer, it’s chip-resistant (follow these steps), and super shiny.

17. Boomstick Color

Boomstick Color is a lipstick, blush, eyeshadow, bronzer, and more, all in one convenient color stick. Watch the video! This multitasking Boomstick is designed to give every woman the best look for every occasion!) Seriously, a fabulous item I carry with me at all times.

18. Make-up Primer

So this is weird. Monistat Chafing Relief Powder Gel is not offered as a make-up primer, so don’t expect to read about that on the label. But it works as the best make-up primer ever created to create a smooth, breathable, amazingly dry “canvas.” If your giftee wears foundation makeup, this is such a great companion—for a fraction of the price of other make-up primers.

19. Wool Dryer Balls

These things look like overgrown tennis balls, made of 100% wool yarn, that over time becomes “felted,” making them especially durable and not at all prone to unraveling. One set of wool dryer balls will last what seems like forever, softening thousands of loads of laundry—no batteries, refills, repairs, or reconditioning required. It’s one [purchase] and done!

20. Block Sharpener

Love this little gadget. It sharpens knives, scissors, cutlery—anything with a blade that needs to be sharp. This Block Sharpener is the only sharpener in my kitchen (whetting stone? … gone). It’s small and fits easily in my utensil drawer. It’s so easy—foolproof—to use (watch the video). And boy does it work!

21. Hand Mixer

I’ve tried other brands of hand mixers and well, no … just no! It’s not the price as this mixer is right there with other brands. I don’t know why this one performs so much better, but I have my suspicions: the shape and configuration of the beaters. Whatever it is, don’t waste time and money on other brands. I’ve done that for you so you don’t have to. Stick with my favorite—Kitchenaid Ultra Power Hand Mixer. It comes in a bunch of colors.

22. Stand Mixer

Yes, only Kitchenaid. Love my Kitchenaid stand mixer for so many reasons, the least of which is that it works! I purchased a refurbished (now being called “renewed”) model and was sorely disappointed. The refurb price plus shipping was only a few dollars different than a new mode with free shipping. The refurb came with inferior accessories, which were touted as new. I’m sure they were and just the worst quality ever. I recommend going with the best price on a new model.

23. Coffee Maker

I own both a commercial model and home coffee maker—both of them Bunn brand. For most home situations a commercial model is overkill. And this Bunn Speed Brew Elite Coffee Maker home model is the best quality and price for home use.

24. Burr Coffee Grinder

We coffee snobs insist on crushing our coffee beans, not cutting them with a steel blade. A burr grinder is a must because it gives consistent particle size for even extraction. Just accept it that a grinder with a blade should be saved for grinding spices. The OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder is a great piece of machinery. Not only does it look spectacular, but it also works really well and is rated highly by coffee lovers of all levels of snobbery.

25. Handheld Steamer

Unlike many small, portable clothes steamers, this Polardo Handheld Clothes Steam can be used right side up or even upside down to steam clean! Tilt it 180 degrees and it won’t spill water, but continues to blast out steam. Holds enough water for up to 10 minutes of continuous steam, but is still small enough to tuck into a suitcase. Steam, remove wrinkles, sanitize, sterilize, soften, defrost and clean any type of fabric. I love this little steamer because it heats up really fast, doesn’t leak, spit, or sputter. It produces massive steam and has an extra-long cord, which makes it so handy to use all around the house.

I hope that showing you 25 of my favorite things will give you some helpful ideas that will make these next two weeks less stressful and more joy-filled!

Question: Do you prefer practical or more impractical gifts? What specifically are your favorite Christmas gifts? Tell us in the comments below.

There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! Read more here.


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Open refrigerator with food in kitchen. Food supply for a week.
cinnamon rolls on a table
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3 replies
  1. Peter Jonas says:

    Thank you very much for sharing about Spring cleaning tips for a healthier home, it’s difficult for me to get such kind of information most of the time always… I really hope I can work on your tips and it works for me too, I am happy to come across your article.

  2. Linda Zavada says:

    I was interested in seeing how the Block Sharpener worked, but when I clicked on “video” it took me to amazon.com. It said that the website which contains the video is printed on the handle of this tool.

  3. Anita says:

    LOVE this list. So much right up my alley! I own a few of these items and have gifted that same dust buster to at least 3 other people. So I know you know what you are talking about. I will definitely refer back to this list the next time I need to upgrade a few things.
    Thank you so much!


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