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The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in May

Photo: retailers

If you follow our monthly feature Your Shopping Cart, you know that we have some eerily good intel on what you all are buying. Which led us to think that, as Strategist editors, we could turn the tables and highlight all the things we’ve been buying for ourselves. As you’ll notice, it’s both a blessing and a curse to be a Strategist editor; we’re picky, but sometimes we just have to get on with it. (It’s online-shopping expertise meets IRL needs.) Below, what we all bought in May.

Karen Iorio Adelson, senior writer

I already own a Furminator at home, but now that I’m staying with my in-laws during the pandemic, I ordered another one, because my long-ish hair cat has been shedding all over their house. The Furminator (which we’ve written about before, here) is a fine-toothed metal comb with a little button you push that releases all the hair that collects on the comb. Fortunately, my cat enjoys being brushed so we’ve already had a few sessions, and it’s truly shocking how much hair comes off each time. Her hair is looking glossy, and we’re hopefully keeping the house a little cleaner.

Nikita Richardson, writer

During quarantine, I rediscovered my love of baked potatoes, and after using a wet paper towel to clean the many, many Russets I’ve recently baked, I decided it was time to get a real-deal vegetable brush. I love this little guy’s ergonomic design and because it has that French country kitchen vibe I love.

I am celebrating unleashing my very thick head of natural hair by babying it completely. That includes finally investing in a good detangling brush, so I don’t rip out my hair every time I manipulate it, and a leave-in conditioning cream to bring it back to sweet, sweet softness.

Casey Lewis, senior editor

I’ve admired this fanny pack, part of Madewell’s collaboration with Topo Designs, for months but I waited to buy it on sale because I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually use it. I should have done it sooner, because it’s been so useful for dog walks, weekly grocery runs, and socially distanced hikes. It’s nice to have a bag that isn’t a purse-purse, and it makes me feel sporty and hip, even though I’m neither of those things.

[Editor’s Note: The black fannypack Casey ordered is out of stock, but this colorful one is still available.]

Levi’s 501 Shorts
From $30
Photo: retailer

Once it became clear that we would not be returning to an office anytime soon, I decided I needed some Levi’s jean shorts for this WFH summer. Although I was tempted by the Ribcage and Wedgie fits, I ultimately went with the classic (and less constricting) 501s. I sized up so they’d be extra comfy and actually bought the knee-length version so I could cut them to my length of preference (a 1-inch inseam is not my thing).

Chloe Anello, junior writer

I have a really nasty habit of picking the breakouts I sometimes get on my chin, but if I put a pimple patch on it, I don’t pick it, and the zit goes away faster. Basically, it’s a win-win situation. I’ve tried a lot of the pimple patches out there, and have favorites (including the Peach and Lily ones) but I’ve heard great things about Starface. I gave them a shot, and I definitely would rebuy. They’re much more expensive than say, Peach and Lily, but they worked very quickly. The only downside is that they’re kind of small, and I wish they came in larger sizes for when you get those really monstrous zits.

Photo: retailer

I honestly never fully understood the purpose of a bralette. If I want something supportive, I’ll wear a bra, and if I don’t want to wear a bra, I won’t wear one. Seems simple, right? But after being in quarantine, I finally understood. I feel like it’s extremely weird to technically be “at work” without a bra on. I’ve been wearing the one I previously owned from Lively every day, so I decided it might be a good idea to get more. They’re soft and comfortable, and as someone with a larger cup size but small band size, bralettes never fit very well, yet somehow, these are perfect. And I even saved about $10 buying their bundle.

Maxine Builder, managing editor

I lost it a little bit this month (as people who follow me on Twitter might have been able to tell). I bought a couple of things on sale, including an Alex Mill cardigan that was 60 percent off and an A.P.C. Demi-Lune purse in a gorgeous hazelnut for an unheard-of, all-time-low price of $225. I also bought a lot of things that were not on sale, like a 60-pack of toilet paper from Office Depot because I haven’t been able to find any rolls in the grocery stores around me for weeks, three cloth face masks from Food52 (one in toile, one in block print, and one from Steele Canvas), a subscription to the language-learning service Pimsleur so I can brush up on my French conversation skills for my next (hypothetical) trip to Paris in 2021 or 2022 or 2023 or whenever international travel is safe again, a Kindle edition of Michael Hyatt’s Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals, and a beautiful paint-by-numbers kit that features a mountain and a placid lake (and reminds me a bit of Lake Louise in Banff) that’s been helping me quiet my mind at night even though I’m pretty sure I’m painting everything outside of the lines.

Peter Martin, senior editor

My sister has a big birthday coming up, and hopefully she’ll forgive us for buying her a Fitbit to help her celebrate. Although it doesn’t have the ability to store music or count laps (should she take up swimming) like the Versa 2, the Lite is the least expensive smartwatch that does everything most people need, like tracking steps and heart rate, and telling you what time it is. I’m also hoping that the option of getting calendar alerts on her wrist will be what finally helps me get her to give up her paper schedule.

We try to limit the toys we buy our 2-year-old daughter, which is turning out to be much harder for me than it is for her. Even though she’s happy wrestling her shadow in the sunlight at the bottom of the stairs most mornings, I couldn’t help myself and bought her a scooter. In my defense, she’s always pointing and saying “me, me, me, me” when she sees her cousin riding his Razor scooter, so I’m pretty sure she’s interested. Plus, I was working on a story on the best scooters for kids, and this one was recommended and surprisingly cheap, so I almost consider it a professional expense.

Tembe Denton-Hurst, writer

Catherine House
$2
Photo: retailer

Unsurprisingly, I bought even more books this month. One title I’m really excited about is Catherine House, a suspense-filled debut by Elisabeth Thomas. Set in rural Pennsylvania, this story about students of an elite school requires that those lucky enough to attend to be cordoned off from the outside world. Then, obviously, chaos ensues. It’s definitely different from what I usually read — I’m a big fan of literary fiction with a character-driven plot — but this feels like perfect remedy to an impending quaran-summer, where the only place I’ll be going is to my couch and back again.

Buying a little desk situation has been at the top of my to-do list, and as someone who doesn’t mind getting work done from the comfort of my bed, I opted for a lap desk that also doubles as a tray. I picked this one up at the recommendation of my friend who previously purchased two, and it’s become one of my favorite purchases of quarantine thus far. It comes fully assembled (an underrated luxury in my opinion), is big enough to fit a 17-inch laptop, and has a convenient shelf that makes FaceTiming much easier, especially if I’d like to multi-task in the process. This has been a dream for creating a setup that feels a little more official, and I believe it will serve me well in the (likely) many days to come.

Louis Cheslaw, writer

R+Co Control Flexible Paste
$28
$28

Like most men in quarantine, my hair is currently longer than it has been in years. I’ve chosen to lean into it rather than cut it myself, but I don’t really have a system for taming it. Or I didn’t, until barber Mark Miguez told me about this paste. I put a small amount on my finger tips, and run my hand through my hair in the rough shape that I want my hair to be. The gentle hold lasts all day, without being sticky or hard. I can even run my hand through my hair without messing up the style, and it all wears off by the end of the day so I can go to bed au naturel.

So many start-of-summer rituals have been taken from us. But one I was able to maintain was changing my watch band out from stainless steel to a sportier, lighter, more comfortable, sweat-wicking nylon strap. This year, I went for a classic NATO strap from Atlanta-based menswear mecca Sid Mashburn, which slipped onto my watch in seconds. They’re available in red, orange, black and other colors, but I love anything olive green. As soon as I put it on my wrist, I felt a little lighter.

Anthony Rotuno, senior editor

Among the things the pandemic has made clear is that lots of people running this country seem to simply not care that their brazen pursuit of the president’s self-interest is on full display. That self-interest, it has been well reported, extends to bending the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service to his will, which has led folks to stock up on stamps in support of the essential agency. Last month I became one of those people, and in addition to buying stamps, I added this T-shirt to my cart. It seems the sort of nostalgic piece that, soon enough, may no longer be available without the Trump logo on it (should he get his way).

Back in early March, I bought a bunch of Emergen-C so I could take it daily to help to prime my immune system for these times. Being a brand name, though, Emergen-C became harder to find. A friend who also started taking it regularly at that time gave me my first box of these Trace Minerals supplements — which are more or less the same idea as Emergen-C, but I actually think taste slightly better? They also, at least so far, have been in more plentiful supply, with no need to wait for restocking. I’ve bought two boxes since receiving my first from that friend, and am hoping they’ll be just as easy to get when the time comes to re-up again.

Jenna Milliner-Waddell, junior writer

This month i’ve really been missing my routine — the one where I say I’m not going to spend money on coffee only to break down around 11 a.m. and sneak out of the office for an $8 latte. In an effort to meet the delivery minimum on a recent Target order, and scratch that itch for a fancy drink, I threw this dirty chai concentrate in my online cart. It’s been a nice alternative to what I’ve been brewing in my French press, and great to drink iced with some Oatly as the weather warms up.

Photo: retailer

Let it be known that I don’t like shorts, don’t really wear shorts, and definitely don’t wear shorts outside of the house, so there is no real reason I need $50 house shorts. But these came to me in an Instagram ad I couldn’t ignore. I loved the color-blocking, and all reviews mentioned how roomy they were, so I figured they would be the perfect addition to my WFH summer wardrobe. I’ve also been contemplating buying non-athletic, “cool” sneakers for the first time (whatever that means) so if I go through with that, I’ll now have something to pair them with.

Kayla Levy, junior writer

My mom is a Strategist stan with heat-damaged hair, so a couple of months ago when we said that Oribe products are among the best for growing out your hair, she doubled down and bought the brand’s shampoo and conditioner. For Mother’s Day I got her some styling product from the same brand, aimed at enhancing her now voluminous and well below shoulder length hair.

In an attempt to limit my screen time, I took a hint from my watch-wearing camp counselor days and bought this simple yet classic sports watch. Now I no longer need to take my phone with me on (socially distant) walks or runs. I picked my watch up from the drugstore (while getting the aforementioned hair product and other necessities), but it’s readily available online too.

Alexis Swerdloff, editor

Inspired by my colleague Lauren Ro, I ordered a pair of Crocs in this jaunty shade of “grass green.” In addition to being extremely comfortable, and just delightful to look at, they’ve become particularly practical now that my son’s new favorite activity is playing with a garden hose and getting me soaking wet.

Buckle Toys Busy Board
$18

Okay, I will admit that I saw this in the background of one of Chrissy Teigen’s Instagram Stories documenting her son Miles’s second birthday. My eye zoomed in on this doo-dad and I immediately Googled “toy buckle zippers” and landed on this wondrous thing that is made by a company aptly called Buckle Toys. My 20-month-old is obsessed with anything involving a buckle (his stroller buckle, his carseat buckle, his high chair buckle), so I immediately ordered it. The “Busy Board” is still in transit, so will keep you all posted on whether it’s a hit.

Also in transit: a pair of $10 Soffe shorts, as recommended by former Strategist editor Simone Kitchens. I went with her advice and got them in navy. I think they’ll look fun paired with my Crocs!

Lauren Ro, writer

Photo: retailer

I’m currently reading poet Cathy Park Hong’s book of essays about her experience as an Asian-American, and there’s a lot that I’m learning, even though we have similar backgrounds (we’re both Korean-Americans who grew up in Los Angeles). I’ve had trouble reading during the pandemic, but I’ve been tearing through Minor Feelings, which is quite readable for a book that tackles difficult subject matter (race, identity, and feelings of shame around those two things). I must admit that I don’t always relate to some of the “minor feelings” that Hong describes (a generation separates our respective experiences), but I’m grateful for her unflinching writing, which challenges me to wrestle with aspects of both my Asian and American identities that are not always pleasant to think about. I can’t wait to finish it.

Growing up, I loved spending weekends gardening with my dad. I’m hoping his green thumb was passed down to me, but only time will tell, so I’m starting from scratch, since quarantine seems like the perfect time to do so. I ordered a bunch of used gardening books — how-tos, but also novels, memoirs, and collections of essays — but, alas, reading does not a gardener make. (Also, who knew that gardening was such a robust literary topic!) The most useful tool I bought is this Japanese hand rake and cultivator that I’ve used to prepare the soil in my planters out back. We still have to do a major landscaping overhaul that I think will require professionals, but for now, I’ve planted a small peony bush and a blackberry plant as an experiment.

Jessica Silvester, contributing editor

Quarantine boredom has apparently turned many people into amateur birders, and my 3-year-old son is one of them. He’s begun amusing himself by spotting sparrows, robins, hawks. And same goes for insects — ants, centipedes, stink bugs. This little field guide came recommended in our story on the best outdoor toys for kids, and even though my son is too young to take full advantage of the flora-and-fauna-finding challenges in it, there’s just enough that he recognizes in here to make him excited about (and, blessedly, preoccupied by) what creatures he can identify. And the book even comes with its own tiny magnifying lens.

It’s always seemed stupid to me to dress up for when you come home from the hospital after having a baby — I mean, you just had a baby. But now I’m thinking, Goddamnit, how many chances do I have these days to get out in public? So I bought this floaty, handwoven cotton dress on Maisonette — which is now sold out there but still available on the brand’s website — and packed it in my go bag. It’s the kind of shape that you can wear pregnant or not. (And I also packed sweats, just in case.)

Rio Viera Newton, writer

From $108

One of my favorite stores in Los Angeles, SALT, has finally launched an online shop! This Abbot-Kinney treasure trove is where I’ve purchased some of my most prized home goods — like my Group Partner vase where my golden barrel cactus now lives, and my giant smiley face bowl, which I keep next to my front door for keys and change. As a treat to myself and to support SALT, I bought myself one of these vibrant, kaleidoscopic, collaged jugs to brighten up my bodega flowers. As is the case with most things I’ve taken home from SALT, this jug has completely livened up my dining room space. Also, all of their homeware is currently 30 percent off with the code GLOOM30!

I’m excited to finally be writing about this one, because I haven’t stopped raving about this purchase since it arrived. Even during this pandemic, my apartment is very noisy. I’d long coveted a pair of noise-canceling headphones to tune out some of the commotion, but simply could not bring myself to shell out the big bucks for the Bose ones. Naturally, I decided to take to the Strategist to research my options, and stumbled across a pair of $40 noise-canceling headphones that claimed to be a good dupe for the fancy ones. You guys, I don’t know how to tell you this but … they’re pretty much identical to the Bose ones! With these headphones, I can tune out my neighbors who seem to be doing construction right now, my boyfriend jumping rope, and my cat meowing for attention, and blast podcasts or classical music while I do my day’s work.

Hilary Reid, writer

The purchase I was most excited about this month is a Mini Meal from Susan Alexandra. For each order, she’ll custom make a tiny rendition of your favorite dish — I’ve seen some pretty stunning bagel and lox platters and shrimp cocktails — and proceeds from the sale go to the charity No Kid Hungry. This time last year, I was on a trip with friends to Portugal, where we ate an astounding amount of shrimp and prawns — so I requested a miniature seafood pasta dish, and am looking forward to gazing upon it at my desk in lieu of eating the real thing.

Photo: retailer

I also bought these running shorts, which pretty much have not left my body since they arrived in the mail. They’re more substantial than Soffe shorts, making them better for going on long walks, and pair well with going-out tops for going nowhere.

Jordan Bowman, writer

Almost three months into social distancing, and I still refuse to betray my barber, so I haven’t tried to cut my hair and I wouldn’t trust myself to do it properly anyway. I’ve decided to dedicate my time to finding a baseball cap instead. I picked up the MoMa New York Yankee fitted cap, because, as Jay-Z once said, “I made the Yankees hat more famous than a Yankee can.” Just make sure you get the right size; there’s nothing worse than seeing someone’s head swimming in an oversize cap.

I’m definitely in the quarantine stage of covering my head as much as possible, because I’ve also been searching for a bucket hat. According to GQ, guys are obsessed with wearing hats on Zoom. Thankfully I’m not that bad yet, but I was still drawn to this subtle tie-dye leisure bucket hat from Aime Leon Dore. They have three colors to choose from. I got the blue, but I recommend either the blue or the orange for a pop of color.

Katy Schnieder, senior editor

Jacquard Tie Dye Kit
$17
$17

It was my sister’s birthday this month, and she requested “a matching tie dye set, so she could look like someone on Tik Tok.” Okay! I got her a tie-dye kit and two Gildan long-sleeves (our resident tie-dye expert Michelle Rizzi said they “take to dye well”) so we could each make one.

Photo: retailer

And in the highly likely case we turned out to be terrible at tie-dying, I bought her a pair of already-tie-dyed French terry sweatshorts from Los Angeles–based company Big Bud.

Liza Corsillo, writer

I have been meaning to buy this donut cuddler dog bed for almost a year. While writing about dog beds for work, I had heard a ton of good things about its cushy orthopedic support and bolster edges designed for pups who like a place to rest their chin. And several of my fellow Strategist dog owners (I am the fourth to own this bed) described how their dogs refuse to leave it for hours on end. I got the smallest size for my dog Uli, which on the brand’s site is shown with a cat, and it’s a perfect fit. My review so far is ten out of ten, as Uli uses it both as a bed and a toy she tries to kill and drags from room to room. Plus the bed is self-warming, something I recently discovered when I inadvertently placed my hand on its center after Uli got up from a long snooze.

My hair has been slowly turning orange due to a combination of sun exposure and drugstore hair dye mishaps — I still don’t understand why a semi-permanent dye that claims to be ammonia-free lifted color from hair! So I read Dominique’s quarantine hair dye article with the focus of a teen reading the instructions on the box of their first menstrual cup. Then I bought this hair gloss. I was both relieved and disappointed by how subtle the results were. It toned down my brassy light brown hair significantly without changing the color much at all and it definitely made my hair look healthier. But there wasn’t any wow moment, like you get at a salon. That said, for $14, I would use this again.

Dominique Pariso, writer

Fruit prints? For summer? Maybe not groundbreaking — but I still love them. And I think this lightweight matching set from Marimekko’s latest Uniqlo collection makes for pretty perfect warm-weather loungewear. I’m already envisioning wearing the top fully buttoned up for any Friday morning Zoom calls, then unbuttoning it for afternoon naps in the sun.

SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF has long been my secret weapon in an ongoing battle against hyperpigmentation. Unfortunately, I used up my bottle to the last drop and didn’t feel like splurging on a new one. Fortunately, I had this BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner on hand that had been collecting dust in my bag since the brand sent me a bottle to try. And I am happy to report that it is a serious dupe contender. Just like SkinCeuticals, it hasn’t caused any breakouts, and, after applying it every morning for two weeks, my skin looks brighter and more even. And it’s got SkinCeuticals beat when it comes to packaging: The container is both airtight and opaque, which protects the precious ascorbic acid inside from oxygen and light, which can degrade it over time. I’ve also found that the gel-cream texture sinks in immediately, and layers under my other products seamlessly. Plus, at 80 bucks a bottle, it’s half the price of SkinCeuticals.

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The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in May