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 trawling through the vast online-shopping universe this past week, including a travel tote for tchotchkes, some technicolor flatware, and a two-player paddle game for the park.
The $9 cousins of Patagonia Baggies
Several summers ago, Strategist senior editor Simone Kitchens told us about a pair of Soffee shorts — a “perfectly preserved relic” of her cheerleading days in the early aughts — that she originally picked up as a makeshift cover-up on a tubing trip. While they’re a bit flimsy for a night out, “Soffe shorts are great for straightening up the house, cooking breakfast (or dinner), lounging on the couch, or weathering steamy summer days when even denim cut-offs are too much fabric,” she says. They’re also an “acceptable (though obviously not identical) dupe for Patagonia Baggies or the Outdoor Voices Relay Short, and you can wear them to do active things, too.” Since then, New York magazine deputy editor Alexis Swerdloff bought a pair, and she admits that she hasn’t taken hers off since Memorial Day. She loves the retro athletic feel and side slits, and while they don’t have pockets, “they’re just so comfy and look good with various tops of different lengths,” she says. Best of all, a pair will only set you back $9.
A five-foot-tall faux plant that looks anything but
For those of us whose live plants often become, well, dead plants, artificial ones offer a simple solution: They’ll never outgrow their pots, their leaves won’t droop down and turn yellow, and there’s no need to worry about watering or fertilizing. Plus, they’re pet-safe and child-safe. Last week, Strategist writer Jenna Milliner-Waddell tipped us off to this lifelike floor plant, which comes in a low-profile plastic pot that can easily be placed inside an even-more-attractive planter — no messy repotting required. “Birds of paradise are one of those plants that almost look fake even when they’re real, so save yourself the trouble and go faux,” she writes. “This five-foot-tall artificial bird of paradise — complete with irregular leaf tears and crinkles — will make just as much of a statement as a live one.”
A softer-than-khakis cotton quilt
If your bed is in need of a normcore makeover, Gap — makers of Kornacki khakis, exceptionally soft loungewear, and, more recently, a bright-blue puffer in collaboration with Yeezy — has ventured into home goods. As we report in our latest Don’t Dillydally: “The collection, which includes home essentials like striped percale sheets and tie-dyed shower curtains, is available exclusively through Walmart and is affordable given the quality. This king-size quilt, for example, is just $60 and is made from a supersoft, GOTS-certified organic cotton.” While some shades are available for preorder and are expected to ship on July 6, the pink and white versions are shipping immediately.
A travel tote for tchotchkes
In our latest installment of Steal My Vacation, Yudai Kanayama — the owner of NYC-based, Hokkaido-style restaurant Dr. Clark — told us about this woven tote bag that he takes with him on his frequent antiquing trips through the Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Handmade in Afghanistan, the bag is the perfect size, he says, “with cute stitches … I wear [it] around my neck.”
Photographer (and home cook) Catherine Opie’s favorite santoku knife
Speaking of Hokkaido style, last week photographer Catherine Opie told us that she can’t live without this Japanese santoku knife from Miyabi — a beloved brand among several knife experts — that she’s used for the past five years. “The weight of this knife is great. I like to do a lot of chopping and try to work the cutting board pretty quickly,” she says. “It isn’t too long — it’s kind of the perfect length. It feels so good in your hand.”
A portable, expert-recommended pet bed
When it comes to dog beds, there’s no one size fits all: Great Danes and Chihuahuas have different needs, as do puppies and old-timers. To help you find the best dog bed for your dog, Strategist writers Liza Corsillo and Dominique Pariso spoke to 13 dog experts — including trainers, veterinarians, Strategist dog owners, and the pet parent of one of the first dogfluencers — about the dog beds they’d recommend. For those who plan on traveling with their pup, a couple of experts recommended beds that can be rolled up and easily transported, like this one from Ruffwear. “This style is a favorite of Russell Hartstein, a certified dog behaviorist and the CEO of dog-care-and-training company Fun Paw Care, who says it’s easy to pack up and take anywhere from camping trips to restaurants,” writes Pariso. The water-resistant upper and waterproof bottom (and polyester padding) make it all the more travel-friendly.
Technicolor flatware for (vaccinated) get-togethers
If you’re ready to start hosting again this post-vaccine summer, you’re in luck: Last week, we rounded up the best dining-room décor for your various eating and entertaining needs — all of which look a lot more expensive than they are. One such find was this rainbow flatware set, from vintage-y dinnerware brand Fiesta. “When we did a deep dive into the flatware preferred by cool people, Technicolor styles like this set (with service for four) were some of the most unique-looking we heard about,” we write. We think this dishwasher-safe 20-piece set would make a cheery addition to just about any place setting.
Biodegradable body wipes for long hikes and flights
Last week, Strategist contributor and self-proclaimed neurotic traveler Ashlea Halpern divulged her post-vaccine traveling essentials, which range from face shields to packing cubes. One essential for long flights and sweaty hikes are these BO-fighting biodegradable wipes, which she discovered while on a camping trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota. “They’ve proven indispensable on safaris in Botswana and Namibia; following day hikes in humid countries like Singapore and Thailand, where I don’t always have time to change at the hotel before dinner; in lieu of bucket baths in rural Airbnbs, where the water sometimes runs brown; and in airport bathrooms following a miserable long-haul flight,” she writes. “Short of a real shower, nothing feels better after a 16-hour ride in a winged metal tube than scouring your nether regions before heading down to Passport Control, fresh as a daisy.”
A two-player paddle game for the park
The problem with most paddle-racquet games (and trying to recruit friends to play them) is that they’re difficult for beginners, explains Strategist contributor and former professional squash player Ivy Pochoda. “I have made countless attempts to engage non-sporting friends in various recreational paddle games on beaches and in parks across the world,” she says. “But most times those people are happier watching (or reading a book) because they can’t hit the ball on the fly” — that is, until they discover Street Racket. The game has simple rules: You draw your own court (usually with chalk) onto concrete, the side of a building, or even in the dirt. The rectangular playing field is divided into three squares; players stand in the two outer squares and compete over the middle square, which essentially functions as a net. You score a point when your opponent either misses your square or is unable to return your shot from within their square, kind of like tennis. But unlike more difficult paddle games, “you do not need to volley the ball on the fly, and because of its soft bounce, even beginners have enough time to react and knock it back,” says Pochoda. Plus, the rules and dimensions of a court aren’t hard and fast: Advanced players can chalk up larger courts for an additional challenge, solo players can chalk a court against a wall, and four players can draw a court in a cross shape for competitive or cooperative play — no private court (or advanced hand-eye coordination) necessary.