sunday circular

10 Things That Delighted Us Last Week: From Beaded Bags to Board Games

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 trawling through the vast online-shopping universe this past week, including Shea Couleé’s highly complimented fragrance, the LaCroix of canned wine, and staple-worthy short-sleeve button-downs. (And if you want even more Strategist stories sent straight to your inbox, sign up for our email newsletter.)

Sweet and spicy honey

Honey comes in a wide range of tastes and textures, making some better for baking, drizzling, or stirring into your tea. Strat writer Emma Wartzman spoke to beekeepers, food writers, and chefs to find the most buzzed about ones, including this hot honey that balances sweet and heat. Food writer and author of the cookbook Indian-ish Priya Krishna recommends the chili-infused honey because it “gives you the complexity of the honey itself, but with a subtle yet effective kick.” Its complex flavor makes it “a good finishing condiment to drizzle on anything from buttered biscuits to salty pizza,” according to Jerrelle Guy, author of Black Girl Baking.

Staple-worthy short-sleeve button-downs

Short-sleeve button-downs, while perhaps more casual, can be as versatile — if not more so — than its long-sleeve counterpart,” writes Strategist writer Chloe Anello. To find actually stylish ones that won’t break the bank, Anello spoke to 15 cool folks about their favorites at various price points. Three guys name-checked Abercrombie & Fitch, including content creator and college student Cal Phillips. He says that because “the price point is significantly easier to swallow than the likes of Jacquemus or Our Legacy” it makes for “a great option for building up those staples in your wardrobe.” Phillips recommends this camp-collar shirt made of lightweight cotton, telling Anello its pattern of cabana stripes is unique among the other short-sleeve button-downs he’s seen lately.

Kitschy Hello Kitty beaded bags

Susan Alexandra, the eponymous accessory line of candy-colored earrings and handbags, recently collaborated with Hello Kitty. “It’s just as kitschy and cute as one might expect,” we wrote in our latest installment of Don’t DillyDally. The collection includes beaded barrettes, bows, and bags. We particularly like this one from the collection, which features Hello Kitty’s face and her signature bright-red bow. Just note that every bag is made to order, so if you order now, you can expect to have it in hand in three weeks.

A solution for all types of sneakers

Sneakers are bound to get dirty. “Unless you put a bag over them, there’s nothing really out there. Dirt is dirt. If you walk on the street, you’re going to get it onto your shoes,” Eduard Shimunov of Cobbler Express in the Financial District told us. To revive sneakers from daily-wear scuffs and stains, writer Jenna Milliner-Waddell spoke to six cobblers and professional sneaker cleaners about their favorite solutions, brushes, and spot treatments. The all-purpose sneaker cleaner from Reshoevn8r “works well on mostly all materials — leather, suede, nubuck — and gets the job done when it comes to cleaning sneakers,” Steven Tran, a cleaning expert at Jersey City–based sneaker cleaning-and-restoration shop Sole Fresh says. The solution is mild and won’t leave behind much soapy residue, according to Richard Brown, the founder of sneaker-restoration company Proof Culture. He adds that, when “combined with a medium-bristle shoe brush or toothbrush,” the solution “allows for a clean wash and maximum dirt removal on the products most commonly used in sneakers, like leather, nubuck, and rubber.”

The LaCroix of canned wine

“It seems everybody is putting wine in cans these days,” sommelier Ian Bishop, the portfolio manager at Flavors of Italy, told us, adding that this uptick in quantity doesn’t translate to quality. To separate the drinkable from disgusting, writer Dominique Pariso spoke to Bishop and seven more experts — including sommeliers, wine-shop owners, and other beverage connoisseurs — about their cans of choice. Bishop and Pinch Chinese wine director Miguel de Leon both like Artómaña Xarmant Txakoli, which is “lightly effervescent” and “made with grape varieties that read a little like cider, a little like beer, and a lot like a good time,” according to de Leon. Bishop puts it this way: “Think if LaCroix made a slightly flat, alcoholic version of a grapefruit, celery, pear, and apple-skin soda with a touch of seawater — in the best possible way,” he says.

Doctor-, parent-, and kid-approved face masks …

Masks are as important as ever with the Delta variant on the rise, vaccination rates stalling, and the school year starting. To find masks that are kid-friendly and meet CDC guidelines, writer Liza Corsillo rounded up cute and comfortable ones that follow the recommendations of two pediatricians she spoke to. We tested Evolvetogether’s disposable masks and found that like the adult-version, “these kids’ masks are made of three layers that block 95 percent of bacterial and viral particles.” Corsillo writes, “We love them because they are tested by an independent laboratory and approved by doctors. Kids will love them because they’re breathable and come with a sheet of funny and nontoxic stickers for customizing each mask.”

… and kid-size cooking utensils

For time at home, cooking with children is a great way to teach them about food, fine motor skills, and multitasking. But it can also be a messy affair. “A kid-size whisk is a good idea because when a little one uses a big whisk it seems to always result in a huge mess,” Chiara D’Amore-Klaiman, a cheese expert at Murray’s Cheese and mom to a 3-year-old, told us. Franklin Becker, chef and co-founder of 100 Pleats, also recommends a small whisk both for mixing and “defending against unwanted attacks from their siblings.” Three other experts also recommend a kid-size silicone pastry brush for egg-washing pastries and milk-washing scones. This set from Cuisinart includes all three: a mini silicone whisk, brush, and spatula.

Shea Couleé’s highly complimented fragrance

“There are tons of fragrances out there that smell like fresh linen, but there’s something different about this one,” says drag queen Shea Couleé of this Maison Margiela spritz she can’t live without. Couleé told us she gets “so many compliments” when she wears it, including from RuPaul. “RuPaul always smells amazing herself, so she really knows her stuff when it comes to fragrance,” she says. “I couldn’t believe that she was impressed by my fragrance choice. It was one of those conversations I will never forget.”

A writer’s new favorite critter-filled board game

Writer Liza Corsillo was playing board games at least twice a week over Zoom at the height of lockdown. This meant swapping out more social games like Settlers of Catan for Ticket to Ride which involves less interaction. “It’s a lot of fun, but after a while, I started to miss the drama — and I wanted more paths to victory than Ticket to Ride could afford,” Corsillo writes. Earlier this summer, she was introduced to a new game — Racoon Tycoon — that “cherry-picks the elements of my favorite games (the fast play of Ticket to Ride, the social interaction of Settlers of Catan) but is more engaging and fun to look at.” She explains that there are multiple ways to earn victory points and win, “so it’s harder to get bored,” and the “intricate, uncanny” illustrations by painter Annie Stegg are fun, too. “Each railroad you can buy through live auction is named after a different creature, with cards that feature rich-looking cats, dogs in top hats, foxes in bustles, skunks with pocket watches, lantern-wielding raccoons, and bears polishing their glasses and drinking tea,” she writes “Every time I play, I discover some clever detail that makes me laugh (my current favorite is the mossy landscape painting on the card for a town called Mole Hill).”

A (discounted) detangler brush that gives one writer “ultra-juicy curls”

Labor Day is just around the corner, which means we’ve been on the lookout for all the latest sales. Our deals writer Leah Muncy found that Skinstore is taking up to 25 percent off best-selling skin-care and beauty products, including this Strat-approved detangling brush. Writer Tembe Denton-Hurst says “this brush was the first brush I used where I felt like my hair was not only manageable but easy to care for, which I think is sort of revolutionary in the world of natural hair.” Not only does it make detangling a breeze, but if you’re looking for more definition, Denton-Hurst says, “I run it through my hair in sections with lots of conditioner and it gives me ultra-juicy curls that dry nicely too.”

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 Things That Delighted Us Last Week