2018 Holiday Gift Guide, Part 1—Mary’s Favorite Things

It’s here … the biggest gift-giving season of the year which kicked off with Black Friday,

One news site referred to yesterday as “Season’s Beatings!” That just breaks my heart when I consider what gift-giving is really all about—what a pleasant and joyful thing it should be—not retail chaos.

Today, with Black Friday in the rearview mirror and Cyber Monday right ahead, I’m releasing below the first of seven Holiday Gifts Guides 2018 that I have compiled for you. Maybe this will help to ease the stress.

I’m a practical gift giver, and I’m sure this year’s Guides will reflect that. I love thinking about the ways my recipient can use a gift—every single day, if at all possible. And it’s a big bonus if I can come up with something my giftees would not buy for themselves. And if I can pull off a big surprise, that’s the icing on the cake. Or maybe I should say the star on the tree!

Today’s Holiday Gift Guide features things that have made my life better in the past year. I’m calling it Mary’s Favorite Things. Then watch for Guides for Her, Him, Seniors, Foodies, Kids of all ages, and one for Anyone.

Note: Prices mentioned below are only approximations, as prices can change quickly. Please make your own independent verification.

I hope you have as much fun checking out this year’s Gift Guides as I’ve had creating them.

Happy shopping and stay safe out there!



1. BLACK+DECKER Steam Iron

This is one amazing steam iron for the money. It gives me great results. It is comfortable to use and has enough heft to give a good press. The high steam rate blasts away wrinkles. 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 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 6 Qt

It’s the most amazing thing—one kitchen appliance that replaces seven. That’s why it’s called Instant Pot Duo 6 Qt 7-in-1. The manufacturer has come out with bigger models that do more things, but this is the one I have, love and am certain that it is all I need. 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 rooms. 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. Eufy Cordless Stick Vacuum

My favorite stick vac* is powered by a mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery. That’s one of the secrets of Eufy’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. I’m talking 30 minutes or longer of continuous use! Eufy* is like an electric broom, dustpan and dust mop all in one.

*Update: As of Jan. 2019, Eufy Cordless Stick Vac has been discontinued. But not to worry! Deik Cordless Stick Vac  is all that Eufy was, plus a few upgraded features. It is interchangeable with Deik is nearly identical to the now-retired Eufy. I love my new Deik and think you will, too. Check it out. 

6. Land’s End Bath Linens

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? These are the ones we want, from Land’s End. At this writing, a 6-piece Towel set runs about $45. Great price that is not likely to last long.

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.

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. About a year 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, it is absolutely necessary. When I am in the EC Central 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 Video Doorbell 2, 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 Video Doorbell 2 is Alexa Certified and so much more.

12. ChefsSteps Joule Sous Vide Cooker

My kids gave me this Sous Vide Cooker for Christmas last year and what a fabulous gift! I’ve learned a new way of “chefing” 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. And the price? Less than a single fast food meal for four.

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 rechargable lithium ion battery and comes with a mini magnetic dock charger. Fabulous. My favorite!

15. JCPenney’s Liz Claiborne Liquid Cotton Sateen Sheets

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. These sheets are 100% cotton sateen (think: percale), luxurious and inexpensive especially when there’s a coupon code available. Or an extra great sale. Prices vary by size of sheets. (JCPenney is generous with coupons so always look for this on their site. And JCP participates in Ebate’s cash back.) These sheets sleep wonderfully. 

Updated: 1-07-19

2018 Holiday Gift Guide — Best Gift Ideas for Her

2018 Holiday Gift Guide — Best Gifts for Teens

2018 Holiday Gift Guide — Best Gift Ideas for Him

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4 replies
  1. Kay Jones
    Kay Jones says:

    I have signed up to receive offers from several stores. Pet Smart has free samples the first Saturday of the month. I go and by December I have a shopping bag full to put in pet stockings. Bath and body works have monthly specials that really add up and I have a stash for gifts throughout the year. I have family who buy generic personal items to save money and I treat with the shampoo and other items they won’t splurge on.

  2. crabbyoldlady
    crabbyoldlady says:

    I have never considered appliances to be a Christmas gift. I don’t want to receive them so I wouldn’t give one either, unless expressly requested.

  3. Linda Hackleman Hutchinson
    Linda Hackleman Hutchinson says:

    Mary, now that we’re putting up Christmas tree lights, it’s the annual frustration with lights that worked last year, but never a second year. Any recommendations? Thanks Linda

  4. Portia
    Portia says:

    I purchased the JCPenney sheets upon your recommendation. They are as you have stated, of excellent quality. The fabric is of good weight and the sheets are very soft. I have used them very little as they pick up lint, fur, stray threads, etc. in an unbelievable manner. Have you had this situation? I have washed them several times in an attempt to remove the “sheen” but this has not helped. They are a lovely burgundy color and show absolutely everything. Any suggestions? Thank you.


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