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The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in April

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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 April.

Maxine Builder, editor

Hyper Pet IQ Treat Mat

This month, I learned that my wonderful, one-eyed dog, Harmony, can only open her jaw about a centimeter. (Our hunch is that it’s a complication from the emergency surgery they did to remove her eye.) Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to cause her any pain or slow her down much. Harmony eats full meals and takes treats out of our hands and runs around on the beach like a maniac. But it does explain why she has never liked chewing on bones or picking up toys or playing fetch. So in a final attempt to find something to keep her entertained, I bought a two-pack of lick mats, something I didn’t know existed until our junior writer Arielle told us about it — and like Maggie, Harmony loves it. It’s the first toy I’ve ever seen her “get.” I spread a couple tablespoons of peanut butter on it and put it down in front of her, and over 30 minutes later, Harmony will still be happily licking away, with no signs of slowing down.

Arielle Avila, junior writer

I’ve been testing a new mattress for our guide to mattresses that you can buy online, and after a few mornings waking up with a sore neck, I was about ready to give up. But after realizing that my pillows were extremely deflated, I figured they were more likely the culprit. Since these Beckham pillows are raved about by nearly all types of sleepers, a favorite among Strategist readers, and don’t cost a fortune, I gave them a chance. I have to say, they really do live up to all the hype, and I’ve been waking up more comfortable and refreshed as ever.

Photo: Courtesy of the Inkey List

Incorporating a retinol into my skin-care routine has been on my to-do list for a while, but I was finally convinced to take the plunge after seeing this Inkey List one in a roundup of effective serums under $20. As beauty writer Rio points out, it uses a slow-release retinol and squalene to help prevent any redness or flakiness, which was a major selling point for me (along with the super-low price). After using it every other night for the past couple weeks, I’ve noticed the texture of my skin is better, my maskne scars are lighter, and there are no signs of irritation.

Karen Iorio Adelson, senior writer

During the pandemic, my hair has grown from a pixie cut to solidly shoulder length. I thought I’d be eager to get it cut once I was fully vaccinated, but I’m starting to actually like having it a little longer. Since I’m not very skilled at styling my hair (especially since I’ve kept it short for about seven years), I was intrigued by this hair dryer–brush combo that stylists recommend for thick and coarse hair like mine. It’s pretty easy to use — even if you’re someone like me who really has no idea what they’re doing. After watching most of a YouTube tutorial, I was able to achieve a smooth, frizz-free style that almost looks like it could’ve been done by a pro. I’m looking forward to playing around with it some more and perfecting my technique.

Leah Muncy, junior writer

When I adopted my cat a couple of months ago, I went to PetSmart and just picked up whatever litter box it had in stock. It did its job, but it was absolutely massive, and the hood had these clips that never seemed to snap on correctly. When I saw this one on Amazon, I was like, Oh my God, this is the cutest litter box I’ve ever seen. It looks more like an igloo or cat hut rather than a litter box, and because it’s white, it blends in really well with my décor. It’s the perfect size for my small space, and my cat even seems to prefer it to her old one.

Famously, I have IBS. I’ve been testing out a gluten-free diet this month — so far, so good! — and I picked up these gluten-free almond-flour cookies from Whole Foods. They taste like the real deal, and they’re only made from all-natural, mostly FODMAP-friendly ingredients. (The brand’s frostings and cake mixes are fantastic too.) After finishing the whole box in under a week, I bought this three-pack from Amazon, which is actually slightly cheaper than if I had purchased it in-store. A win, win!

Casey Lewis, senior editor

The Sephora sale got me good. I snagged some almost-always-sold-out Topicals Faded serum after reading this glowing tweet, and though I’ve only used it twice, I swear my persistent maskne scars are indeed fading. (Sign up for the waiting list; that’s how I got my hands on it.) I also reupped on Olaplex No. 3, a longtime favorite, and threw in the brand-new No. 8 mask. I’ve since been using them in tandem, and my hair has never looked healthier. Finally, I bought more of my go-to curl cream from Moroccanoil and grabbed some of the brand’s argan oil while I was at it.

Daniel Varghese, associate editor

I adore Smartfood popcorn, but for some reason, it is next to impossible to find it in my neighborhood. It is not stocked at my main grocery store, any of the bodegas near my apartment, or the pharmacies down the street. (Considering its sodium content, I can forgive this last infraction.) To soothe the craving in quarantine, I started popping my own kernels and quickly found myself down a culinary rabbit hole of toppings. Nutritional yeast and furikake were delicious, but neither are quite as gratifying as the galactic coating of cheese I could lick off my fingers. Apparently, I am the only person in the world who didn’t realize you can purchase said coating in bulk. Shout-out to Nuts.com, from which I will buy perhaps the least nutlike food item that possibly exists.

Chloe Anello, writer

I never imagined I’d have anything in common with Georgia May Jagger, but as it turns out, we both hate taking vitamins. When I interviewed her, she told me she couldn’t live without these gummy vitamins from SmartyPants because they taste like candy, and she actually looks forward to eating them. She’s completely right. I really love these vitamins, which is something I never thought I’d say, and I remember to take them every morning now because they’re so good. I’ll definitely continue to buy them. Thanks, Georgia!

I bought a lot of stuff for my new apartment this month in preparation for my move. I’m most excited about a vintage ’90s gold console (that is way more tasteful than it sounds) and this couch. I heard about this couch when I first started at the Strategist; we published this story about couches under $2,000. I decided that if I got an apartment with a big enough living space for a nice couch, I would get this one because I wanted an aesthetically pleasing, kind of modern-looking couch that was also comfy enough to nap on. And the day has finally come! I went to a West Elm store to try it out for myself (even though I do trust the recommendation on its own), and it was perfect. I technically move on May 1, but because I couldn’t fathom living in my new place without a couch for a month, I bought it almost three weeks early so it will be delivered not long after I move in — which I’m still considering one of my best decisions thus far.

Anthony Rotunno, senior editor

Early in April while scrolling through Twitter, I came across GQ’s deep dive into a recent attempt to progressively rebrand Big Dogs, the once ubiquitous loungewear brand that built a reputation, mostly among men of a certain age, for leaning into heteronormative stereotypes now largely seen as cringey. For a brief period last year, Big Dogs and a team of creatives who have since left the company released a handful of clothes, including this T-shirt, that turned the brand’s identity on its head, suggesting a Big Dog’s bigness comes not from brute force but strength of character. As someone who picks up graphic tees like other people pick up books, the price and silly design of this one would have done it for me alone — but the fact that it came from this fleeting moment in a popular (if not cool) brand’s history made it even more appealing.

To make room in our closet for that T-shirt and a few other purchases of late, my husband and I did a bit of spring-cleaning and organizing. I bought one of these zip-top storage cases about a decade ago for storing clothes that no longer have a place in my day-to-day wardrobe. With that first one now full to bursting, it was time to double up. The material is durable and sturdy — but flexible enough to allow the cases to be smooshed beneath a standard bed frame — and plenty protective of anything kept inside. Stock now seems limited in this size, but Muji also sells a taller option that you could easily tuck on a closet shelf or floor.

Lauren Ro, writer

I’ve wanted these ever since an interior designer recommended them for a story I did on the best patio chairs last year, but they were perpetually sold out. They just looked really nice and more expensive than they actually are. Now that I own four of them, I can say that in addition to being beautiful in person, they’re also weirdly comfortable for being made of rope. The recline is perfect, too. Even though our back “garden” is still a work in progress, at least now we have a place to sit.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had a $50 credit in my Criterion account and promptly ordered these two Blu-rays that represent my two filmic passions: French New Wave and Korean cinema. I first watched Jacques Rivette’s Céline and Julie Go Boating in college, but in order to see it again, I’d have to catch it every time it made the repertory-theater rounds in New York, which wasn’t often. It’s now available on DVD for the first time in the U.S., and I’m so excited, as it’s one of those films that get better with every rewatch. Not to give away too much, but it’s about two women who meet by chance and go on what can only be called a romp through Paris and what may or may not be a haunted house. (Read this excellent essay by critic Kristen Yoonsoo Kim to see what it’s all about, but only after you’ve watched the movie.) The other is Memories of Murder, Bong Joon Ho’s second film, a thriller that’s just perfect through and through. For fans of Parasite, it’s a must-watch.

Peter Martin, senior editor

Our neighbors are our gardening inspiration. They grow little peppers and tomatoes and always have incredible flowers, all in their tiny concrete Brooklyn front yard. We’re not ready to try to grow food (and probably never will be while we live on a bus route), but after years of jealously eyeing the purple flowers that overflow the planters on their stoop, I finally asked what they were called and ordered some. Ours are much smaller, but if I can keep them alive through the summer, we’ll double down next year. (The ones we bought are out of stock, but if you’re not trying to copy our neighbors, these look pretty too.)

As an alternative to delivery, this month we ordered a bunch of delicious prepared foods from Three Owls, a café-slash-market in the West Village that delivers to Manhattan, Brooklyn, Westchester, and parts of Connecticut and Long Island. (It’s run by a friend who co-developed the recipes for the former meal-delivery service Plated.) So far, we’ve had salmon cakes, squash macaroni and cheese, and green beans in pesto with roasted bits of almond. The mains are around $30 and feed two adults and one (very hungry) toddler, and the sides are typically $15 to $20. The true highlight, however, are the salted-butter chocolate-chunk cookies. I don’t know how we’re not going to order them every month.

Jenna Milliner-Waddell, writer

I am preparing for my first post-vaccine trip, which also happens to be my first real vacation since 2017, and I decided this momentous occasion was deserving of Riot Swim. We’ve written about the brand before, and I’ve had my eye on its Bixi bikini for a while, but I don’t love the thong-bottom look on me. I was so excited when it launched this newer style that has just a little bit more coverage. It’s still en route, but the fabric looks buttery smooth, and I can’t wait to try it on.

Pazzo Industrial Floor Lamp

Inspired by editorial coordinator Kelsie’s lamp purchase last month, I decided the bedroom portion of my studio could use some more vibes as well. The exact one she ordered was a little too tall for my needs — I didn’t want it to peek out over the rattan screen that divides the space — but this one is a perfect fit. It was similarly cheap, which I also like, and it came with a bulb, which is always appreciated. The bulb is honestly too bright to be vibe-y, but I have my eye on these amber glass Edison bulbs that I think will do the trick.

Louis Cheslaw, associate editor

Timex Unisex Weekender

I first saw this watch on the wrist of an enviably laid-back hotel receptionist two summers ago and have wanted it for myself ever since. The case is thin enough to slip under shirts and sweaters, the dial is super-sharp and legible, and the nylon strap means no sweaty wrists in the sun like you get with a leather band. Add the fact that it’s water resistant and the value proposition just goes off the charts.

I’m using this month’s haul as my confession booth: I can’t stop buying this candy, and have been trying to stop for a few months. (Pro tip: Keep it in the fridge for extra chewiness.) It’s my hope that telling you all here could bring me the closure I need.

Jessica Silvester, contributing editor

Fran Drescher inspired me to revisit this Laura Geller primer that was the very first primer I ever used, way back in the early aughts, when my mom would feverishly order jars of the stuff off QVC and I would dip into them on special occasions. I’d lost track of the brand over the years, and I had my doubts about whether Spackle would hold the same luster now that I’m a million times older. But Drescher, who is 63, gave me hope, and I ordered the Hydrate version that she noted could stand in for your moisturizer. (The other options include Champagne Glow and Ethereal Rose Glow.) Sure enough, when I dabbed it on underneath a lightweight foundation, my skin appeared luminous; it did not at all wash me out as most primers do. And my makeup not only stayed in place but actually seemed to look better as the day wore on. I’m glad this came back into my life just in time to start showing my face in public again.

The hints of summer in the air filled me with an uncontrollable urge to buy melamine and host people outside. I headed over to Jung Lee’s website, recalling the dazzling array of shatterproof pitchers and snack platters at her store in Nomad, and found this splashy, Amalfi Coast–esque serving piece: It felt totally my style and also not my style at all, which was kind of a thrill. You can find more in the collection at Juliska, too, if you, like me, really want to commit to the theme.

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 April