It’s that time of year again. Where I tell you what I love or aspire to love and you then decide if any of my loves would make a [chef’s kiss] gift for yourself or others in your life.
The usual disclaimers and reminders —
I find efficiency, organization, comfort, ease, and cleaning sexy; I’d much rather a Container Store gift card than diamonds
I’m frugal but I looooove fancy hotels, Macbooks, pedicures, and airport lounges
Links may be referral links. In regards to Amazon links, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Speaking of Amazon, an encouragement to buy anything you can buy elsewhere elsewhere if it’ll help a small business. Use my links as recommendation/research links and see if your local Mom & Pop has what I recommend.
I don’t have any Mac & Cheese Store items listed below but obvs, buy my stuff
! Tshirts, tanks, hoodies, masks, onesies, stationary, video tutorials, cleaning e-book, gift cards+. You can gift a BLM storytelling scholarship here
(or gift any of my offerings
to anyone via a gift card or reaching out to me directly to coordinate).
- Love you dearly but boundariessssss. If you have questions about list items pre purchase or post purchase, google it – check out the company’s website – reach out to the company’s Customer Service. E.g. “My Dyson is acting weird, any ideas on how to fix it?” or “How do you use Bon Ami?” — please do not reach out to me unless it’s to hire me for consulting, buy one of my tutorials, or register for an offering. Adding the word “quick” to your inquiry, e.g. “I have a quick question” does not make the inquiry ok and in fact is worse in my eyes (more noodling on this topic here).
You can find previous year gift idea lists here
- For non-holiday time, if you’re jonesing for my recommendations, I have a bunch of lists on my Lists Page and in the Mac & Cheese Amazon Store
Anything you’re squeeeee’ing? A product or business you want to spotlight? Drop it in the comments. And YES!, even if it’s your business. Especially if it’s your business. Have you met me?
Past Years Thoughts —
2020 Thought — Care packages are the best! They’re so fun to put together, they’re so fun to open. Plug for buying various smaller items and bringing back the overnight summer camp vibe. Bonus if you throw in a box of Nerds or some Now & Laters. I love themed care packages: DIY home essentials, Adulting, Self-Indulgence, Nostalgia, etc.
2020 Life of Yes℠ Gift Guide
- Thanksgiving Food
- Additional Tech
- Office Supplies
If you’re interested in pre-ordering food for the holiday, do this NOW!! Many cut offs are happening soon, some have happened, and some are sold out already. I’ve included ones where it’s too late because you should put them on your list for next year and/or buy from them for non-Thanksgiving. Christmas maybe?! These are all Chicago-based; if you’re not in these parts, I encourage you to find a restaurant in your area and local-splurge. Win-win, which as you know is my favoritest scenario in life. Did you see the SAD Thanksgiving contest I’m running? Join us in being SAD together.
Sauce & Bread
Run by an old friend of mine Mike who combined marital forces with an equally skilled and big hearted soul and they birthed this restaurant. This says it all about them as people: “For those in search of free meals who have been screwed by Covid or are looking out for someone that has enter code: helpyoself at checkout for anything in the FREE MEALS CATEGORY curbside or help your self at SBK.”
Honey Butter Fried Chicken
Another addition in the “care about the world and their employees” category, Josh & Christine have been front runners in making sure their people are taken care of and doing their part to ensure that happens across the board. Bonus: their food is delicious and they’re right across the street from friend Matthew aka the You Are Beautiful
guy so you can fill your belly and your heart in one trip.
5 Loaves Eatery
I met Connie in a University of Chicago small business program. Again, huge heart and community minded. “We are excited to provide (Thanksgiving food) service specially for those who will be keeping it small quaint this holiday season. Keeping this in mind, we do have a la carte sides and meats available to order.”
This is where Best Friend ordered his Thanksgiving 2020 food. Vegan. We’ve eaten here a few times and it’s sooo good and creative. I don’t miss meat and dairy when noshing here.
Touch free, rechargeable soap dispenser
We got four of these at the start of Mach 2020; who knew touchless anything would be so fashionable and essential just a few weeks later. We bought them because they were on deep discount, like $20 less than regular price. I don’t think we would’ve bought them at full price but that said, we looooove them. The earlier model had batteries; none of that business anymore, we recharge ’em every three months’ish. And my favorite feature — the amount of soap that comes out depends on where you hold your hand.
Need an IKEA slipcover?
Maybe it’s out of stock at IKEA? Or it’s too pricey? Or they don’t have the color you want? This gal’s niche are covers made for IKEA furniture. I love that I can look up Ektorp Couch and see something I know will fit perfectly. And soooo many colors. I can’t believe the prices. I haven’t yet ordered so can’t attest to quality but lots of good reviews.
I’ve always wanted one of the fancy Simple Human trash cans but I can’t swallow paying $100+. Even this one at $50 was more than I wanted to pay, so when I saw it at Target on sale for $30 something, I jumped. And it’s the best!!! I’d recommend it even at full price. We love the size, the look, the quality. One day, I’ll Oprah myself and get the huge stainless steel one. Till then, this is perfect.
These were on last year’s list but I can’t quit the packaging, the concept, the scents — “book club,” “birthday party,” “Friday night football,” “four twenty,” “home office,” “new job,” “winter mantel,” your home town/city/state/country.
Magnetic stud finder
I absolutely hate looking for studs, the whole concept of studs. I just wanna nail stuff where I want to nail stuff. But you learn the hard way enough times, you begrudginly accept that stud usage is a good thing. This tool hangs on the wall hands free when studs are located. [insert Best Friend made joke about me needing a stud finder… Never fails.]
Wall repair patch kit
One of proudest moments of my home-owning life was repairing the damage done by *someone* ripping the towel holder out of the bathroom wall. Old Saya would’ve just painted over the holes, not really covering up the oops just slightly camouflaging it. Middle-age Saya wanted to do it correctly. I spackled for the first time! It looks great! This stuff was so fun and easy to use. If you have holes in your wall, highly recommend. Goes on bright pink and dries white which I admit was part of the fun — magic!
Best Friend loves this for yes, what it’s for, dough scraping, but even more for protecting his knives and using it as a scooper after chopping veggies and the like. (Hot tip: Don’t tell him. I like it for cleaning! Stubborn stovetop ick, tight spaces on microwave/oven/counter… )
Stop the splatter. Point of contention in our marriage. This helps.
Best price-to-value chef knife
If you learn how to sharpen or take them to get sharpened every once in a while, and always clean them by hand and treat them nicely, will last you forever.
I’m trying hard to be better at water consumption. This bottle has been a source of encouragement for me. It also travels and hikes well. Fun colors!
That time of year. We notice a huge difference is keeping us from coughing and having dry throat in the winter when we use this. It’s also a nice white noise maker. Make sure you change the filter and clean the system! Defeats the purpose if you’re breathing in mold.
Keurig Plus Coffee Maker, with Single Serve K-Cup Pod and 12 Cup Carafe Brewer
This is my favorite self-indulgent purchase of 2020. I fought pods forever because of the non green’ness and relative priciness of ’em compared to canister coffee. I only pod-indulged when on vacation. But then I thought about just how much joy they brought me on vacation and it felt so very anti-life of yes to deny myself a constant source of joy, an every single day joy. I adore tapas, hot bars, and buffets because I love a little of everything; I Iove to mix it up. Being able to have cinnamon coffee Monday, crème brûlée Tuesday, french vanilla Wednesday, and and and, well, I decided to treat myself. I am over the moon with the fact that this machine makes both pods and carafe coffee and that you can set it up customized to best fit your space (water filter on either side or the back). I use the carafe when entertaining or when I decide to do traditional coffee. I am anti things on counter but this is both pretty and necessary. RE the expense, look at this way — I’m less likely to go to Starbucks to get a latte if I have pods so really, I’m saving money!!! (is what I tell myself)
Coffee pod variety pack
I’ve tried a few different companies and these are my favorite, both flavor range and taste.
Coffee pod organizer
To cap off my pod-game, this perfect baby sits under the machine so it doesn’t take up precious counter space.
Coffeemate Liquid Creamer variety pack
Another way I treat myself coffee wise. Again, the options. I truly feel decadent when I get to make the decision, Sweet Italian Cream or Salted Carmel?
I have found plant care to be so cathartic during quarantine. My favorite way to start the day is as my coffee is brewing to walk around to all my plant babies to water, weed, dust, and tell them what good plants they’re being. Even my monstera who is continuously dying and causing me Bad Mom Complex.
Chicagoland plants delivered to you
Same ol’, same ol’ story — a guy quits his finance job to care for plants and travel all over Chicagoland delivering greenery while blasting music from his adorbs blue truck and his dog Gerald rides along, with portions of proceeds to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
UPDATE: made a huge change to the home office; see List Page for the changes. Every time I post my workspace, someone asks about something they see. So this list is on the page of lists on my site, and as I inevitably add to the home office, I’ll keep the list updated so whenever you NEED to know what ring light I have, you can head straight to the List Page instead of my inbox or DMs.
It’s quiet, simple to use, fast, and the toner lasts a long time. Being able to print to it no matter the device or it being plugged in to said device is delicious. I can’t believe how many people don’t have printers or copiers at home. I love the convenience and not having to run to FedEx to print something.
They no longer make the scanner we have, this is the updated edition.
Ring Light with extendable tripod stand & phone holder
In the category “Never thought I’d buy” but it makes all the difference! I look so much better when on Zoom. It has three moods and different intensity for each mood. After seeing how much I liked mine, Best Friend got one too. Of all things I’d buy for the Zoom home office, this comes in at number one as far as how often it gets used and the difference it makes.
My laptop camera is fine quality wise, I don’ t need anything fancy in this area. The main reason I got this is because of my set-up — if I use my laptop camera, I have to look to the side instead of straight ahead. Because I can perch this on the monitor in front of me, I can look directly at the camera. Bonus: I look better too.
Desktop Standing Desk Converter
This is what I have. It’s Vari’s best-seller. It converts your regular desk into a standing desk. Very easy to use. Not super cute and I often wish I had more surface space to spread out and feel constrained. But it does the primary thing it’s supposed to do very well; I can transform into a standing desk in seconds. I’ve had it for four years and it’s held up well. (It’s fun to browse the Vari site so that’s the previous link; if you want the Amazon link
This is what I have. Disclaimer: I got this chair as part of my swag bag for being a speaker at a conference (I know, right?!?). It. Is. Pricey. I don’t know if I’d shell out the dough. That said, if you have said dough… Shell. (It’s fun to browse the Herman Miller site; if you want the Amazon link
Working from high-boys is my favorite seated position. This is a much comfier version of a bar or coffeehouse high-boy. I aspire to have this chair.
I’m intrigued. I haven’t tried one and I question if I’d hate not having a back. But it’s supposed to keep you “active” when sitting.
The one I have is so old I can’t find a link to it, but it’s similar to this one. Same brand, same size. I don’t care much about display quality. I just wanted the option to have two screens and a larger screen than my laptop. We usually buy monitors whenever they’re on deep discount which is how this one landed here. Two screens is a game changer, highly recommend!
I was using the mic on my laptop before I got this one and though it was clear, my voice was not as robust as it could be/as others due to distance. Not about to drop tons of money on a mic but on board with the fact that an external mic can really increase audio quality even a lesser priced one, I bought the bullet with this middle of the road one. Not the cheapest, not the priciest. Very happy with it and the “Tech Guys” at various recent speaking gigs of mine have complimented me on my audio. My one knock is that it has a blue light that stays on and it’s really bright. Luckily I don’t sleep in my office otherwise we’d have an issue.
I’ve had this for a few years and love it. Dual purpose for me — raise my laptop so its eye level when I’m at my desk and to keep my laptop’s underside without blockage. You don’t want your laptop fan to overheat or have to grind it out. Unlike other ones, it comes a part in case you want to travel with it.
3-Port USB hub with ethernet converter
I have two of these connected to my laptop as without them, I wouldn’t be able to connect all my devices. And most importantly, it allows me to hard wire in so I don’t have to use WiFi when Zooming.
Speaking of hard wiring, one of the first things we did when quarantine started was invest in this ridiculously long cable so that both of us could bypass WiFi. Our offices are miles a part though. Running the cord down the hallway to my office from where the router is is our band-aid version; it doesn’t look nice. But who’s coming over these days? We’re going to wait and see how this all shakes out and if we want a more permanent solution. For now, this works perfectly.
I bought this two years ago for the rare time a Lighthouse Squad member couldn’t be with us physically and needed to Zoom in. Now I use it often for my offerings where I want multiple angles, e.g. my Sparkle & Shine series where we clean together, separately. I love the versatility and mobility. And if I wanted to bring it on the road, it’s light and foldable.
Wireless keyboard and mouse
Just like Oprah. Loves. Bread. I. Hate. Cords. Looking at them. Dealing with them. The first thing I’ll do when I’m rich is hire a Cord Wrangler to concoct stupid expensive ways to hide all the miscreants. For now, I find work arounds. Like lessening the amount of cords. I’ve been wireless moused for years but just became a wireless keyboarder and OMG. Whyyyyyy did I wait so long. It’s heaven.
We’re big backup of backup and tight security people round these parts. We use these for both.
External Hard Drive
Same concept here. These complement our cloud backups and we have some outside of the home as well just in case something happens to our home that renders those backups unusable, like a fire. We love how small and lightweight they are. What a shift from the huge, heavy ones I had when I first started Mac & Cheese.
Wireless earbuds Option 1
and Option 2
Whenever I see people with earbuds, I admit, I judge; “douchebag” is a term that rolls, er rolled, around in my head. But frustration with my headphone wire led me to give them a try. Of course I wanted Apple Airpods but at $100+, I just couldn’t. Especially since I wanted two sets, one for next to the bed and one for outside (part of my Life of Yes℠ productivity teachings: multiple sets of XYZ makes life so much easier and you’ll remove the “I forgot to pack the […..]” and will be more likely to use [….] if they’re easily accessible. Items in your workout bag, in your “work from a coffeehouse” bag, your suitcase..). The price of these made two doable. I decided to try two different brands as an A/B test. Non-phone audio in both is wonderful; listening to music, podcasts, etc. Phone audio is horrendous. I have not been able to have a conversation using them yet and it’s been four months. I can hear others fine but they complain that it’s too noisy, I go in and out, etc. Maybe that’s what you’re paying for with Apple? So DO NOT GET THESE IF YOU WANT TO TALK ON THE PHONE WITH THEM. I’ve also heard that the noise-cancelling on Airpods Pro is really good. I haven’t been in a siutation to really test mine out when it comes to noise-cancellation but I would bet they’re not the best.
RFID phone wallet case
I love this when I just want to bring my phone and wallet items, and don’t need a purse. I’ve traipsed Italy and Ireland and the Grand Canyon with it, and often times forget it’s even on my wrist. Make sure you check what brands and versions phone wallets are made for as fit is not universal.
Phone protector case
If you’re a phone dropper like I’ve somehow sadly become, this is a lifesaver. It’s come through over and over with keeping my phone from getting scratched or broken. Make sure you check what brands and versions phone protectors are made for as fit is not universal.
Unsolicited Advice 2021 planner with stickers
I’m 100% digital when it comes to my calendar but so close to biting the analog bullet with this one. It has everything I love. “A personal space to look ahead and reflect back, to document what happens and how you felt, with lots of activities and writing prompts and tons of stickers. it’s weirder and more existential than you might expect.” UPDATE: a week’ish into using it, here are my thoughts
“Rad & Happy is a design and lifestyle brand that’s full of rad design that makes your heart happy, magical late night Target runs, laughing out loud, a deep rooted love for dry shampoo, and lots of black and white goodness.” Stationary to coloring pages, you can’t not smile when looking at these products.
When you have to get down on your hands and knees and scrubbbbb.
Protect and restore your hands from irritants with this shielding lotion.
Dawn Platinum Powerwash (For those of you coming to find an answer to “Who’s the Queen of stove top ick?! based on this post, here she is! The Easy Off below is also a Queen.)
I did an A/B test on the disgusting grease dust on the tops of our kitchen cabinets (you can see this in my Cleaning Joy Instagram Highlight
as well). This worked sooooo well on impossible to remove ick and it’s tied with below for being my favorite way to remove grease. I also use it on the cabinets above our stove and grease-soaked pans. Diehard fans talk about using it in non-kitchen areas as well like the bathroom.
I hate mops. They take too much work and I feel like I’m pushing around dirty water. So I loved and used the green Swiffer for years. Then I tried this one at a client’s and was immediately sold. So much faster and easier and you don’t have to change the cloths with the frequency of the green Swiffer, not to mention they stay on better.
Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner
The Iowa Pine scent is my hands down top choice. It’s harder to find than some of the others so I stock up when I do find it. I use it for 99% of my normal cleaning needs.
Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Dish Soap
This is a seasonal scent I learned about via a client. I hate the fall scents (acorn, pumpkin, etc) so was prepared to not like this one either but ermagod, so good. This + the pine scent, maybe I’m just more of a winter than a fall when it comes to this brand.
From a company who makes cycling/triathlon custom clothing. Comfy! If anyone has a, uh, larger head, I have it on good authority that these warrant a Large Head Thumbs Up.
We’ve tried seemingly 10 million and this is one of the comfiest. Large Head Thumbs Up.
Reversible House Shoes
I love all things Japan which I blame on our magical trip there two years ago
. The no shoes in the house life is one I have come to embrace and wonder why it took so long; have you seen the bathroom floors of the bar or the train platform you stand on?! Eep. Removing shoes is fun when you have house shoes like these.
Play-Doh Grown Up Scents
: Overpriced Latte (coffee); Mom Jeans (clean denim); Grill King (smoked meats); Dad Sneakers (rubber); Spa Day (floral); and Lord of the Lawn (fresh cut grass)
I just want to gobble up this entire store
. It’s travel stuff+. If you’re a school supply or organization nerd like me, you’ll be googly eyed.
One of those “Really?!” items. One of those judge someone who has it items. Until you try it.
Relatively expensive but a nice small team startup who make really good bags. We’ve traveled all over the world for years now with their bags as our main luggage. They just came out with a new version which Best Friend got and it’s sexyyyyy. We have the big one, the small one, packing cubes, and the accessories case.
My link will take you to my recommendation list; some of the titles —
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter
Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House
Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters
Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman
How to Be an Antiracist
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond
On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss
A black woman owned bookstore and gallery space in Chicago (but ships everywhere!)
All summer there were lines down the block to get in. At a bookstore! Love. My picture from waiting in line was one of my most liked photos. There’s just something about a bookstore. Throw in that it’s black and women owned and
community oriented, well okkkk. “Semicolon Bookstore is committed to nurturing the connection between literature, art, and the pursuit of knowledge; while also using the power of words to better our community. We invite CPS students to the store every month to #ClearTheShelves. Free of charge, students can take home whatever books they’d like. Investing in our youth, one book at a time.”
Hand-assembled collages celebrating black women
Via Sharon Walters. Even if you don’t buy, go browse! So beautiful. Give her a follow on Instagram
so you can see when she does a live; it’s fascinating to watch how she creates her collages. “The series, entitled ‘Seeing Ourselves’, explores under-representation in many arenas in particular, the Arts and Heritage sector and mainstream western media. The work encourages us to ‘take up space’, be seen and create our own spaces.”
Everything you need to know about baking
Best Friend has made a gaggle of Kristin’s recipes and one of our faves is her focaccia
. Her website is so very thorough and prettyyyyy, I suggest you put aside a few hours and give it a scroll. You can buy courses, classes, products. A recent addition is her vintage kitchen shop
; her dream is to open her own brick & mortar with these types of items. She’s having a 20% off sale currently.
Stay safe, stay home, create win-wins when you can! Drop what you’re crushing on in the comments.