We write about hundreds of products a week. Here, in our version of the Sunday circular, we’ve plucked out some of our favorites — expert-recommended essentials, life-changing stuff you didn’t know you needed, newly-launched gizmos, and the very good deals we uncovered while trolling through the vast online-shopping universe this past week, including a doodad for peeing safely in public restrooms, a kettle to complete your Nancy Meyers kitchen, and Serena Williams’s favorite headphones.
An affordable alternative to inflatable baby pools
“Think of it as the world’s shallowest blow-up pool, but instead of air filling the low wall, it’s water,” writer Lauren Ro says of this so-called splash mat she bought for her 16-month-old son, Augie. “To set it up, all we had to do was stick a garden hose into the nozzle (it also comes with an optional adapter) and turn the water on. Within minutes, the perimeter filled with water, and the tiny punctures lining it became a sprinkler, shooting out gentle, arcing sprays that reminded me of a fountain at a fancy outdoor shopping mall.” Augie, she writes, took to it right away: “He splashed and stomped to his heart’s content. We had to pull him out when it was time for dinner; otherwise, he would have stayed all evening.” At 60 inches in diameter, Ro adds that the mat is “also big enough for adults to join in.”
An expert-approved Lego set (for all ages)
“They have been a lovely way to just sit, focus, and chat, away from screens and other distractions,” Canadian government analyst Stephen J. MacDonald says of Legos, one of his favorite pastimes and one he’s taken up even more amid the pandemic. Writer Louis Cheslaw asked him and 12 other Lego fans to recommend the best sets for kids and adults, and heard about styles of all sorts, from replicas of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater to replicas of the Central Perk coffee shop from Friends. This set (for ages 4–99+, according to the brand) bridges the gap between beginner and advanced builder, says the anonymous creator of popular Twitter account Lego Grad Student. “You cannot go wrong with a Creative Brick Box,” they say. “The pieces offer endless possibilities and the widest variety of colors and shapes to build some version of any small item that comes to mind.”
A ‘classic, practical’ plus-size women’s swimsuit
Stylist Ansley Morgan told writer Dominique Pariso that while plus-size women and people “have a lot more choices today,” shopping for swimsuits in all sizes “can still be a daunting task.” But with the help of Morgan and eight other cool people, Pariso rounded up some of the best plus-size women’s swimwear (from one-pieces to bikinis to swim dresses) to make the process less of a drag. “I think every woman should have a classic, practical one-piece in a solid color, and this J.Crew suit fits that bill,” Morgan says of this strapless swimsuit that goes up to a size 24 and comes with an optional strap for those who need extra support. For 26 more options, click here.
A doodad for peeing safely in public restrooms
“The gadget allows you to pee in a standing position, neatly avoiding touching dirty toilet seats or accidentally dragging your clothes along an unclean bathroom floor,” contributor Alison Freer writes of the GoGirl, a silicone funnel of sorts that she first received “years ago from a fellow costume designer.” While she once only whipped it out in the most disgusting of restrooms, now she’s “taking it everywhere I go: on hikes, to the grocery store, on a plane when I had to make an emergency trip to my family in Texas, and even to friends’ houses for porch hangs. Not having to worry about touching a toilet with any part of my body (or hovering over the seat while my thighs burn) has been a huge relief as I start to head out into the world.”
Serena Williams’s favorite headphones
“These are the best headphones I have ever used” and one of seven things that the legendary athlete told us she can’t live without. “They have true noise cancellation, which gives me the silence I need to focus and train. I use them on business calls, and I’m always listening to music. Music absolutely changes my mood and helps me get in the zone — it really puts me in another world. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that.”