our shopping cart

The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in January

Photo: Retailers

If you follow our monthly feature “Your Shopping Cart,” you know 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 January.

Jessica Silvester, contributing editor

This month, my family took a ski trip, where we discovered that our almost-4-year-old is not at all ready for skis. But on the plus side, I got to check out the mountain’s overpriced boutiques, which were stocked with kid sizes of the Colorado-based gear company Spyder. Despite the splurginess, I had a feeling my son could be convinced that these were in fact “Spider-Man clothes” (the brand’s logo is a Black Widow) and that he would therefore actually wear them. And I was right. Although he has exceptionally high standards for comfort — getting him dressed appropriately for winter is a daily battle — even he could not deny the coziness of this moisture-wicking fleece pullover and these pants. They’re roomy enough that they’ll likely still fit him as underlayers if we try to ski again next year, and in the meantime, they’re warm enough to sport on their own for trips to the playground.

Last year, I hopped on the Olaplex bandwagon and found that the No. 3 mask really, truly does make my split ends look immediately stronger, like they just did barre class or something. But after I ran out of the first bottle, I didn’t buy another, simply because the application instructions felt too high pressure: Rinse and towel off your hair, saturate it with the treatment for a minimum of ten minutes before shampooing. Who has that kind of time? Recently, though, a hairstylist gave me a tip: Just glob it on your hair when it’s dry, even if it’s dirty, and wash it out later that day. This is very actionable advice in a pandemic, of course, when no one is around to notice your greasy head. And it totally works! I’ve noticed all the same benefits of the product, without any extra stress in the shower.

Jordan Bowman, writer

Bodum Milk Frother

I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to perfect my pour-over coffee technique, which has turned into my new quarantine hobby. I miss dipping into cafés on the weekends, and I’ve become obsessed with a Korean reality show called Coffee Friends — about a wholesome group of celebrities who open a café and donate their money. So I decided to level up and get this milk frother while browsing the shelves at Target to hopefully re-create the vibe of my favorite coffee spot.

Maxine Builder, deputy editor

Over the holidays, someone gifted me a Monstera from the Sill, which — to be absolutely clear — is a very nice gift. But there is a reason I’ve never bought myself a Monstera: I live in New England, which is the opposite of the tropical climate that Monstera needs to survive, and I have a notoriously black thumb. But I am doing everything I can to keep this plant alive, if not thriving, and that has included buying this not-too-expensive plant stand on Amazon, so I can prop it up as close to a south-facing window as possible. (It’s going okay — and at least the planter itself looks nice.)

Arielle Avila, junior writer

After seeing this in last month’s haul and reading that senior editor Casey Lewis loves it as much as her dog, I, too, bought the highly praised, highly entertaining snuffle mat. Now, my dog can’t get enough of it, but to the point that she refuses to eat out of anything else.

Even though I’m not going much of anywhere lately, I still continue to buy new shoes. This month, I went in search of replacements for my unsalvageable Vans for a new pair of white sneakers and went with these platform Converse. They add much-appreciated height and foot support, and they’ve so far been excellent for my walks to the dog park and back.

Liza Corsillo, writer

My fiancé’s birthday is in January. He is wonderful in all ways except for the fact that he is very hard to shop for, so when he mentioned wanting a new kitchen knife, I snuck out and bought him this set of Wusthof knives as soon as I possibly could. I know very little about knives, so I did a bit of research online, and then after my weekly acupuncture appointment, I popped into the best kitchen store I know — Tarzian West Housewares on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope. The salesperson pointed me toward this set after I told him a little bit about our cooking habits. The knives are sharper than anything I have used, and the weight of the handle makes cutting fun even when it’s a pile of onions.

I keep a bottle or two of this hand sanitizer spray in my bag, my car, and at the door of my apartment. It’s easy to use and easy to share with friends without getting too close together. Regular hand sanitizers can be hard to control, and I usually get way too much all over my hands and wrists. This one lets me cover every bit of my hands without making a mess. Plus its refreshing lavender scent makes me feel calm and happy.

Karen Adelson, senior writer

Even though I’ve been working from home for nearly a year now, this is the first purchase I made to improve my ergonomic setup. I should know better from talking to a bunch of chiropractors for different Strategist stories on posture and ergonomics, but I tend to slouch and sit in all kinds of weird positions that are probably terrible for my body. I’ve been using it for about a week now, and it’s pretty incredible what a difference this little lumbar pillow makes. It fits right into the curve of my lower back, forcing me to sit up straighter and release the tension in my back and shoulders. I actually bought one for my husband, too, and he says it’s “life-changing.”

I’ve been wanting to get into knitting for a while, but the whole learning curve seemed very intimidating. Then I read this Strategist story about Loopy Mango’s beginner kits and decided to give it a try. This hat was surprisingly easy to make (I followed along with the brand’s very beginner-friendly YouTube tutorial) and looks like something I would want to buy. I also used its scarf kit, and it was just as easy. Now I’m itching to try more complicated projects.

Jenna Milliner-Waddell, writer

I finally wrapped up all the big purchases for my apartment this month when I finished my dining room (a.k.a. the corner of my studio where I put a table and two chairs). After much deliberation, I went with a 32-inch tulip-style table, instead of the standard 40-inch Docksta from Ikea, and these two Safavieh cane chairs. I considered what feels like a million other options but kept coming back to these and decided they were worth the investment. It helped that I found them at Target for relatively (and only relatively) cheap at $305 for the pair. I bought two to test first, and when I went back to complete my dream set of four, they were sold out. They’re available elsewhere, but they are much more expensive.

I just found out that my attempt at reducing my Con-Ed bill by never turning on the heat failed miserably, which means I’ve been literally chilling in my apartment all month for no reason. Thankfully, I had my new blanket by my side. We’ve written a lot about Barefoot Dreams blankets, so when I spotted one deeply discounted at Nordstrom Rack, I had to go for it. It’s super-soft, machine washable, and large enough to wrap around my body. In store, it was just $50, but for $10 more, that’s still a pretty good deal.

Alexis Swerdloff, editor

For the past several decades, I’ve been using the same metal colander I got at Ikea during one my various post-college hauls. It’s held up great, and does the job, but its long handle has always been a bit of a “pain point.” (The handle makes it hard to store efficiently, and it tends to get caught in the tangle of pots and pans in my cabinet.) One recent evening, when I was trying to get it down to strain some pasta and it got hung up on a bowl, which came crashing down, I thought, Life’s too short to have a colander I dislike. In looking for something more compact (but not the foldable kind; I used one recently at an Airbnb and did not like it), I stumbled on this Joseph Joseph duo. The big one is wide and deep enough to handle a full pot of pasta, and its shape creates a spoutlike situation wherein dumping its contents into a pot is a breeze. But it’s the baby one that I love the most: While it looks tiny, I’ve been using it to strain my toddler’s pasta, large handfuls of blueberries, and bowls of rice. Washing it is a breeze, and obviously it stores very neatly into its mama strainer. It’s hard to get excited about a colander, yet here we are, I suppose!

Lauren Ro, writer

I finally bought this cult favorite after thinking about it for years. My lips had been so chapped, and I was desperate, even though it felt a bit silly to spend $22 on what is essentially glorified Chapstick. But as soon as I opened it, I was immediately taken with its berry scent and pink packaging, since I love candy and anything that reminds me of candy. It comes with a tiny applicator that looks like the world’s smallest rubber spatula, and I love dipping it into the luxurious balm, then using it to lather the balm on my lips. The formula definitely feels stickier than your average lip balm, but I always immediately forget about it because it just soaks in. In the morning, my lips feel rejuvenated. Sadly, the moisture doesn’t stay locked in all day (I still have to put Burt’s Bees on throughout the day), but for nighttime, it’s great.

Jenna recommended this at-home face-wax kit to me after I complained to the team about not having gone to the threaders since the beginning of the pandemic. Seeing as it was only $10 (for a pack of 20 strips!), which is basically the price for an upper-lip hair-removal session at my salon, I thought it couldn’t hurt to try. I’d never waxed my face before, so I was worried there’d be a bit of a learning curve, but the whole process couldn’t have gone more smoothly — or painlessly. The included instructions were clear and straightforward (I also consulted a video tutorial for extra guidance): Just clean and dry your skin, apply the strip (no warming required), then pull off. Repeat on the other side. Just like that, my upper lip was finally hair free again, and I didn’t even have to leave the house.

Anthony Rotunno, senior editor

While binging the newish Jenna Lyons series on HBOMax, I got the sudden urge to try the pajama-shirt-as-everyday-shirt style she helped popularize back in her J.Crew days. (If now’s not the time to wear PJs all day, then when?) I’ve never shopped for proper pajamas, though, and (understandably) most come as pricier sets, something I didn’t want to spring for because I knew I wouldn’t wear the bottoms — and might not even wear the top if it looked silly. After a bit of hunting, I discovered that Lands’ End sells pajama separates and, like it is now, the standard pajama top was on sale. I gambled on liking the style and bought three (navy, “mariner-stripe blue,” and chambray). They’re not the finest-made shirts — or even the finest-made pajama shirts — but they’re perfectly comfortable. And, when styled under a heavier denim or flannel shirt and tucked into most any pant, they definitely achieve that Lyons look I sought.

I am the type of person who sees even the smallest blank surface or space as an opportunity to decorate. Sometime during quarantine last year, I started to see the simple, blank shades covering the lamps in my apartment as blank canvases that could be painted like the lampshades at Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel, on which Madeline author Ludwig Bemelmans (the bar’s namesake) drew the most delightful little scenes. Every few months, I would scour Etsy for options, going deep into pages of suggested products after searching things like “handpainted lampshades” or “painted lampshades” or “painterly lampshades.” It was while doing yet another search this month that I discovered the shop of Shadyriv, a London-based maker who sells these most whimsical hand-painted shades. Bemelmans’ they are decidedly not, but the abstract cast of faces on each shade shows just enough hand to suggest they are one-of-a-kind items I didn’t scoop up at Anthropologie. At under $60 each, they seemed quite reasonable for things I know nobody else would have the same exact version of, so I bought two, and I couldn’t have been happier when they arrived. (They’re not perfect fits for any of my lamps, but those lamps can support them just fine.) Although each shade Shadyriv sells is one-of-a-kind, she seems to replenish her shop regularly enough, so I would suggest checking back if you don’t see anything available.

Tembe Denton-Hurst, writer

New Year means new books. So far I’ve purchased three: this one; Black Buck, by Mateo Askaripour; and Detransition Baby, by Torrey Peters. So far, The Prophets is the only one I’ve read, and it’s an incredible read. The book has echoes of Morrison but exists in a world of its own. Apparently, it took 13 years for him to complete it, and after reading it, it makes sense why. It’s a masterpiece and was a great way to start off my reading year.

I’ve been on sort of an insane quest to find dining chairs. After my initial set from Target, a pair of upholstered yellow chairs that I loved, were destroyed by my cats Stella and Dakota, I had to rethink my approach to seating. After hours upon hours of searching, I settled on a set from Urban Outfitters, and though I liked them a lot, one came without a base and they had to be returned. I finally settled on these from Amazon, which meet my criteria and will (hopefully) look nice with my wood dining table.

Dominique Pariso, writer

A sad but true fact is that the pandemic has turned me into a jaw clencher. The sore feeling is super-unpleasant, but my new favorite thing to do is fill this little massager (first recommended by Strategist contributor Fiorella Valdesolo) with boiling water and rub the tension away. I have become extremely attached to this little octopus-looking doodad, and bonus: I think the daily massage might even be making my jawline look more defined in addition to pain free.

Louis Cheslaw, writer

My girlfriend and I did Christmas late, which allowed me to take advantage of Knickerbocker’s winter sale to buy her the scarf she always steals from me. Beyond its classic design and soft, wintry colors, I like that it’s a little shorter than most scarves (falling at the waist, not the thigh) and that, because it’s merino wool, I’ll be able to wear it through the spring, which you can’t really do with cashmere.

For years, George Saunders has taught a course at Syracuse University, where his entire syllabus is built around some Russian short stories he thinks hold the keys to good writing and a good life. I’ve long been jealous of his students and feel beyond lucky that he’s just published a book version of the course for the rest of us.

Kelsie Shrader, editorial coordinator

I am not at all a spontaneous spender — if I see something I want but don’t immediately need, I think about it for, like, three weeks, and then maybe three months, before ultimately denying myself joy — but when I saw this bra (while reading this article), something in me wanted it right then. It looked cute and comfortable. The brand was environmentally focused. Someone said it was great for WFH. And, I don’t know, I just really felt like I deserved to own a bra that made me feel good physically and aesthetically and morally. So I bought it, right then and there, and I have felt zero guilt. It is very comfortable. It is very cute. I’ve willingly worn it more days this year than I wore any type of bra in 2020. This is, I believe, what they call self-care.

Leah Muncy, junior writer

Now that we’re all supposed to be double-masking, I decided to add some new masks to my rotation this month. This one is from Sundae School, and it’s one of the most comfortable, breathable masks I’ve worn. It’s lined with antimicrobial black mesh, which keeps my face from overheating, prevents makeup transfer, and is light enough for layering a medical mask underneath. I have a really small face too, and it fits me perfectly.

I also picked up this experimental book of poetry, by Claudia Rankine, which grapples with depression, loneliness, race, media, and American life under the Bush administration. It was written in 2004, but it, rather soberingly, could’ve been written this past year. I posted a screenshot of one of the pages to Instagram, and everyone was like, “What book is that? Who wrote that?” — which I think is a testament to just how urgent and moving Rankine’s writing is.

Katy Schneider, senior editor

It was my mom’s birthday this month, and she’d mentioned that she’d been looking for an antique quilt. I found the perfect one on LiveAuctioneers, at a Guernsey’s sale: a 1930s Art Deco piece covered with silk fans. I spent an entire Saturday morning waiting for it to come up for auction (it was lot
No. 300 — following “43 Amish mittens” and “Lyndon B. Johnson’s chair”), and when it did, I swooped. And won! It was tense and thrilling. I picked it up that week from the warehouse, and when I brought it home, I realized how perfect it would look on the bare white wall behind my couch. And — well, needless to say, I kept it. To make up for that, I bought her something I do think is — okay, fine, not equally, but nearly — as special: this Lisa Corti tablecloth.

Rio Viera-Newton, writer

I’ve been wearing these adorable printed masks underneath my fabric one to layer up this winter. My super-sensitive skin tends to get a lot of chafing and irritation from my standard disposable masks (no matter how much Vaseline I put on to create a protective barrier), but I noticed that, thanks to the softer fabric, my skin is barely ever bothered by these. My favorite is this pretty navy celestial print.

I’m in constant pursuit of comfortable, cozy, work-from-home bras. This wireless, racerback one from Fenty x Savage has become my new obsession— it’s supportive, there’s no scratchy or pokey bits, and it hardly feels like I’m wearing anything at all.

Chloe Anello, writer

I got a sample of these gummies at the end of last year, and I slept so well that I bought a whole pack. I take them every night, and it makes such a difference in my sleep. Not sure if it’s because of the CBD or the melatonin in them (or just a placebo effect), but I’m a big fan so far.

Some friends just had a baby girl, and while searching for a gift, I felt a little uninspired by all the baby stuff I looked at. This is their second kid, so I figured they’d have a lot of newborn clothes and toys to use already, and I didn’t want to get them anything that would just sit around for months while she grows. But when cruising the aisles in Target, I saw these adorable flannel blankets, except they felt a little plain. To spice them up a touch, I embroidered the baby’s name on them in different shades of pink and purple. Her parents loved them, so I’d say it was a successful craft project.

Casey Lewis, senior editor

Since 2015, I’ve rotated through two single pairs of athletic leggings I randomly bought at Old Navy. They’re thick enough for winter runs, stretchy enough for yoga, never ever fall down at the waist, and — crucially — are not see-through. By now, the cost per wear is probably less than a penny. When I noticed the hem was beginning to unravel on one of my pairs, I decided it was time to reup. I was able to track down the same style from the number on the extremely faded tag, and immediately bought two. I am thrilled to confirm they are the exact same as the ones I bought years ago — except that they now come in petite, meaning no sagging ankles.

Hilary Reid, writer

My birthday was earlier this month, so as a gift to myself I bought this navy cashmere headband at Zitomer (where it was — surprisingly — a little less expensive than on the designer’s website). It’s extremely comfortable for a headband, without any of the digging-in-behind-the-ears issues, and the navy makes it easy to wear often.

Lately I’ve been eating a lot of sauerkraut (on salads, as a dinner side, just piled on a tomato), and this dill-and-garlic Saverne one is the best I’ve tried. I’m honestly not sure what makes it better than others. Maybe it’s the texture, or the fact that the resealable bag feels easy to handle, or that it’s cheaper than other ones? Whatever the case, I think most things are better when covered in dill, and this sauerkraut is no exception.

[Editor’s Note: Availability on Instacart depends on your location, but you can get three 16-ounce jars of Saverne Artisanal Dill & Garlic Kraut on Amazon for $35.]

Kayla Levy, junior writer

Nearly a year into this pandemic, I finally found an at-home hobby: magnet-making (and mailing). Just like most of my creative endeavors, my mother, an artist and teacher, taught me the simple three-step process: Cut out an image (we use ones from magazine ads, but a drawing works too); laminate it; and stick a magnet on the back. Any laminator or magnet will do, but when it comes to scissors, you want something fine tipped and small enough to handle precisely (for cutting out a slice of cheese or the silhouette of a dog, for instance), and American Crafts makes the best ones out there.

Crystal Martin, senior editor

Until it shattered, I never thought through exactly why I loved my favorite mug. But when I had to hunt down a replacement, I realized all the appeal was in the porcelain. It was fine, translucent, and very lightweight. It felt good in my hand. Drinking out of the fine porcelain somehow elevated my coffee-drinking experience. I had to piece together the bottom of my broken mug to find out it was bone china and made in England. I searched for those characteristics on Amazon, found this mug, and crossed my fingers. It holds just the right amount of coffee, is lightweight, and I even like the pattern, which is an actual thing because the majority of fine bone china patterns are too busy.

[Editor’s Note: The shamrock-printed mug that Crystal bought is currently out of stock, but this in-stock pair is also made of fine bone English china.]

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.

The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in January