These days, it can be easy to get down on our state. The continued budget impasse, along with the political fighting that goes with it, the huge list of hardworking groups and organizations waiting to be paid, and the recent downgrade of Illinois' credit all get a lot more coverage than the good things that Illinois has, and the really cool things we make here.

Let's turn our attention away (for the moment) from the downside of Illinois, and take a look at some of those cool things. Caitlin Wilson, writing for Reboot Illinoisgives us a few examples of Illinois products and/or inventions that may make you say, "I didn't know that we made ______ here!"

Things like:

Beer Nuts

Beer Nuts, the company that mixes peanuts, cashews almonds and other nuts with items such as pretzels and breadsticks for a snack mix that fits right in at a bar, is located in Bloomington. They’ve been creating nut mixes since 1937, when the company was called the Caramel Crisp Shop. The Beer Nuts mix was created in 1953.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

This classic childhood dinner was invented in Glenview in 1937 by James Lewis Kraft, complete with its tube-shaped noodles and powdered cheese. Now, the brand sells microwaveable single-serving containers in addition to the classic stove top boxed version—not to mention the version with the fun shapes.

Riddell Sports Equipment

Riddell was founded in 1929 in Evanston. It manufactures protective sports equipment, especially football helmets and pads. Founder John T. Riddell began his sports equipment career in 1922 when he invented the first removable football cleat when he was the Athletic Director at Evanston Township High School. The company translated its football helmet design to combat helmets, worn by some American soldiers during World War II. Today, Riddell helmets protect against 2 million points of impact on a head during a football game.

Quaker Oats

Quaker Oats was founded in 1850 as a part of German Mills American Cereal Company. The company changed its name to the Quaker Oats company in 1901. It was the first company ever to register a trademark for breakfast cereal, in 1877 and its recognizable Quaker man (named Larry) appears on its instant, traditional and snack oatmeal products. It is based in Chicago and in 2012 was awarded the Governor’s Sustainability Award by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.

Solo Cups

The company that manufactures this iconic party necessity, Solo Food Service, is located in Lake Forest. It began in 1936 and today the traditional red plastic cups are joined by plates, bowls, paper plates and cup lids in an expanded array of colors including blue, clear and patterned.

First Alert

First Alert home safety company’s worldwide headquarters are located in Aurora. The company also operates in countries such as Australia, Indonesia and Nigeria, among others. They sell smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms and fire extinguishers, plus other products such as personal panic alarms and safes. The company has helped develop a mobile application that can control thermostats remotely.

The list goes on and on, so if you'd like to peruse it, click here, and here.