sunday circular

10 Products That Delighted Us Last Week: From Sex-Toy Soap to Short-Story Collections

Photo-Illustration: retailers

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 the vast online-shopping universe this past week, including Black-made museum-quality quilts sold on Etsy, a candle that burns for 800 hours, and the kit that Taraji P. Henson uses for quarantine manicures.

Honeycomb for the valentine who’s your honey

Valentine’s Day is exactly a week away, but it’s not too late to get your best friend or partner something thoughtful that’ll still arrive in time — like this pound of organic honey, which we said “can be enjoyed with cheese, on yogurt or ice cream, or just straight out of the box” and would make a good under-$50 Valentine’s Day gift for anyone with a sweet tooth. If your budget is under $25, or you’d rather tell them you care in writing, we have picks for you, too. Or, if you flat-out forgot, consider a virtual gift that won’t require any shipping time.

The short-story collection that Danielle Evans read while writing her short-story collection

At the onset of writing The Office of Historical Corrections, Danielle Evans thought she was writing a historical novel. But once she realized she was writing a novella and short-story collection, she sought inspiration from Lost in the City, by Edward P. Jones. “Ideally, a story collection should feel like all the stories are in conversation but not quite saying the same thing,” she says, noting that Jones’s collection of stories about Black life in Washington, D.C., is just that. “He’s such a genius with time. He’s so good at small moments … bringing the whole weight of time into something.”

A candle that burns for 800 hours

“Candles are frequent fodder in a certain corner of TikTok — called WickTok,” explains Strategist writer Jenna Milliner-Waddell, but she also recently turned us on to a monstrous candle corner of TikTok. Viewers were especially rapt over a candle from Remedium that “has ten wood wicks and is comparable in size to a space heater,” but since it sold out immediately, Jenna found over a dozen other enormous candles, from six to 18 inches in diameter. At 6.2 inches in diameter, this Baobab Pearls candle is actually on the smaller side of her list, but it “can burn for 800 (!) hours, the longest burn time on this list. That means you could burn the candle for more than a month straight (though we don’t recommend actually doing that).”

Kamala Harris’s Hennessy cocktail kit

There were lots of fun collaborations to be found in this week’s installment of Don’t Dillydally, our column where we highlight the best new launches and releases, including a Poketo-designed Takenaka bento box and a collection of cherry-covered acrylic trays and coasters from Edie Parker, in partnership with HVN. But perhaps the most unexpected collaboration came in celebration of the first Black and South Asian American madam vice-president, Kamala Harris: Hennessy launched a cocktail kit with Cocktail Courier that includes everything you need to make the so-called 49th cocktail, which is “essentially Hennessy with pomegranate-hibiscus-tea ice cubes.” So drink up.

A baby soap for your sex toys

Although you might have seen this expert-recommended baby soap on the Strategist before, this is the first time it’s been recommended as a sex-toy cleaner — by all seven experts whom we spoke to no less. “Just squeeze a drop or two on the dirty toy, give it a good massage with your hands, and rinse it with warm water,” says sexuality doula and sex educator Ev’Yan Whitney. The soap is unscented, so it’s particularly good for sensitive skin. (And here’s your friendly reminder that washing your sex toys before and after use reduces the risk of “yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, or even an STI,” explains registered nurse Dominique D’Vita, who also recommends cleaning any toy before you even use it: “Just because you’re opening it brand new from the package doesn’t mean it is clean.”)

The kit that Taraji P. Henson uses for quarantine manicures

“Back in the day, when I was in college, I used to do nails to make my little McDonald’s money. During the pandemic, I’ve had nothing but time and Amazon, so I fully stocked my home with all the things that are at the salon. I got some mannequin hands, and I started going to the University of YouTube to teach myself how to do nails,” says the actress Taraji P. Henson, who told us this gel-extension kit is one of the things she can’t live without. And she is good at it: “You’ve got to have some kind of skill to use it; some people can’t give themselves manicures, but I can. I like doing this kind of complicated stuff.”

Fogproof frames for him

Photo: retailer

“A new shape or color of glasses can sometimes change your whole look,” says John Sherman, a typesetter at Harper’s who recommended these Stanley Tucci–esque frames from Warby Parker when asked about the best, most stylish pairs of eyeglasses for men. Sherman was initially concerned about their smaller size but says they’ve had an unexpected perk as of late: “They don’t fog up as much when I’m out in the cold with a mask on.” (A host of stylish women, including Aminatou Sow, told us about their favorite eyeglasses too.)

“Sensitive” marinara sauce

After being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome last year, Strategist junior writer Leah Muncy was forced to forgo “the two great Pillars of Flavor” — onion and garlic — to which she was now intolerant. “For that reason, I went without so much as a bite of pasta for months, finding my sauce options (or lack thereof) uninspiring,” she writes. That all changed when her mom, who also has IBS, introduced her to Rao’s sensitive marinara sauce: “Sensitive is a gentle way of saying that the sauce doesn’t have garlic or onion. Instead, it’s got celery and carrots, which give it an earthier, root-y flavor than the regular marinara. Served with gluten-free pasta — and topped with vegan Parmesan and fresh basil — the dish is tangy, creamy, and slightly sweet: just how a plate of pasta should taste.”

Black-made museum-quality quilts sold on Etsy

When Strategist writer Lauren Ro set out to discover the best decorative quilts, she found that all roads lead back to Gee’s Bend, a remote rural community in Boykin, Alabama, where Black women have been creating quilts since the 19th century. “Over the last decade and a half, newfound respect in the art/gallery/museum world for Black quilting, typified by Gee’s Bend artists,” has continued to grow, explained Kelsey Keith, the editorial director at Herman Miller. Short of seeing a quilt in a museum, or traveling to Boykin yourself to buy one, Gee’s Bend quilts were typically hard to come by — until last Monday, when, in honor of Black History Month, Gee’s Bend quilters began to sell their quilts on Etsy in partnership with Nest and Souls Grown Deep. Caster Pettway’s shop is one of the nine that’s currently selling Gee’s Bend quilts (though many are sold out or are low in stock), and Pettway’s handmade pieces — which she’s been making for 40 years — can take at least a week to complete. “I like to sew each stitch with my hands,” she says. “I feel more relaxed doing it this way, and I can just concentrate better when I’m sewing with my hands.”

And our favorite vegan mattress (with a discount)

Avocado Green Mattress, Queen
From $2,379
From $2,379

Described by Strategist writer Liza Corsillo as “a giant slab of rising dough,” the Avocado Green Mattress is among our favorite eco-friendly mattresses, and, through Presidents’ Day, it’s on sale (along with a handful of our other favorite mattresses): You can get $100 off the Avocado hybrid Green or Vegan mattresses with code STRATAVO, two free pillows with the purchase of a hybrid Green or Vegan mattress with code STRATPILLOW, and $200 off the latex or luxury crib mattresses with code STRATGREEN.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

10 Products That Delighted Us Last Week on the Strategist