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 Alan Cumming’s go-to eye drops, a cheap hack for cozier lighting, and naturally sweet whole-fruit candy.
Art-supply-store brushes for applying makeup
When makeup artist Niko Maragos started using fewer powder-based products and more liquid and cream products, she started adding art-supply-store brushes to her arsenal of makeup brushes. “When you’re working with products that have a liquid or cream texture, you want to apply them to the skin with brushes made from synthetic fibers. They repel liquid rather than hold on to it, which means instead of the brush absorbing that liquid product, synthetic fibers get more of it onto the skin,” Maragos explains. She told us about four art-store brushes in her rotation, including this “powerhouse” of a brush. She says it’s great for everything from “applying lipstick, eye shadow, and carving out the arch of an eyebrow” to “creating a nice, clean contour line, especially down the sides of the nose,” and “doing a cut crease as well.”
A hot waffle iron for grain-free waffles
Moon Juice founder Amanda Chantal Bacon recently released her second book, The Moon Juice Manual, which is packed with plenty of comfort food recipes. Grain-free waffles are one of the many recipes included, and she told us about this Cuisinart waffle iron she exclusively uses to make them. “I probably went through six other ones before this and gave them all away,” she says. The difference with this one is that it “gets hot, creating an intense steaming effect when the batter goes in — the key to Bacon’s success.” The iron’s surface gets hot enough to give the outside a nice, golden-brown sear. “With grain-free, my goal is to always get a crust, and then have a steamed cake on the inside,” she says. The other models she tested left waffles “thin and flat,” but this gets “hot enough to achieve this optimal texture.”
A subway book for all ages …
“Like many kids who grow up in the city, my toddler son, Augie, is simply obsessed with the subway,” writes Strategist writer Lauren Ro. “COVID makes it tricky to constantly ride the rails, so when he can’t do that, he’s content calling out train stations on walks and drives, playing with his subway toy cars, and reading books about the subway.” One of the three books Ro owns is The Great New York Subway Map, which Augie spotted at a bookstore. “It’s definitely on the too-old-for-him side (it’s historical and text-heavy),” she says. “But the illustrations are gorgeous and graphic and adults learn a lot, too.” Published in conjunction with MoMA, the book introduces readers to famed Italian designer Massimo Vignelli and traces how he came to design the modern MTA subway map. But what’s better is that “Augie loves the pictures most of all and is endlessly chuffed by the ‘subway spaghetti’ that ultimately gives the designer an aha moment,” Ro says. Since the book is targeted for ages 8 through 12, she hopes that it’s a book Augie returns to when he’s older.
… and a MetroCard for your pup
This adorable plush squeaky toy that nods to the subterranean system was unearthed in a microsale this week. We think any dog in your life (MTA obsessed or not) would love it as much as we do. “All dogs are allowed on the Mutt Transportation Authority,” writes our deals writer Leah Muncy.
Storied Seneca Village candles
Ahead of the Met’s exhibition “Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room,” the museum collaborated with Harlem Candle Co. on a limited-edition candle. “The candle, called Seneca, imagines a world in which Seneca Village — a historically Black village that was destroyed to make way for Central Park — still exists and thrives,” we write in this week’s Don’t Dillydally. “Apparently, a modern-day Seneca Village smells like spiced black tea. It’s also mixed with the scents of present-day Central Park, which has notes of wild thyme and cedarleaf, and finishes off with the scent of incense, clove, birch, vetiver, and powdery concrete.”
A cheap hack for cozier lighting
Strategist contributor Sadie Stein is a fan of low lighting. “I crave a dimmer; I adore a pink light bulb; I live for a red lampshade,” she writes. One way to achieve this is with table lighting, which she calls “the apex of couth. To me, there’s nothing cozier than a convivial pool of light in a dim room.” While Stein has amassed a collection of fairy lights, votive holders, and other things to get that La Grenouille effect, she tipped us off on an easy and cheap lighting hack. She often uses a luminary, or a wineglass shade, which is “simply a vellum cone that you stick atop any stemmed glass. Put a tea light (or an LED one) inside, and voilà! Instant filter.” She buys the white, cream, or pink ones and suggests pairing them with thrifted glasses. “Run a bunch down your table; put one in the bathroom for a party. Stick one in your window so a passing child can develop a lifelong obsession,” she says.
Alan Cumming’s go-to eye drops
When we spoke to actor Alan Cummings about the things he can’t live without, he told us about Bausch + Lomb’s eye drops, which were recommended to him by his eye doctor. He explains that they’re less bad for your eyes since they “don’t have the damaging chemicals the others do,” and that they really work. “Being an actor is annoying sometimes because you have to look cute. At three in the morning, when your eyes are bloodshot and you’re very tired, I definitely see a difference,” he says.
Naturally sweet whole-fruit candy
“I generally eat healthily, but I do have a sweet tooth,” writes Strategist contributor Steven John. “Give me a bag of Hi-Chew, a Cow Tale, or a handful of Sour Patch Kids, and I’m tucking it in.” To curb his sugar cravings, he’s found “healthier sweets that scratch the itch but are lower in sugar and made with more natural, even organic, ingredients.” One such candy he’s found is Raisels, a “great whole-fruit option for candy” that doesn’t contain any artificial flavors or sweeteners. They come in flavors like Chili Limón Pineapple and Raspberry that make them “more enticing than the classic raisin, yet still plenty sweet thanks to natural sugars.”
Pretreatment solution for weatherproofing shoes
“There are few things worse than watching your brand-new shoes get showered in sludge, snow, or an unexpected evening rainstorm,” Strategist writer Ambar Pardilla writes. To help weatherproof your shoes, we asked cobblers, custom shoemakers, and shoe-store owners about the sprays, creams, and oils they swear by. This pretreatment product was brought up by Waleed Cope of Brooklyn-based laundry- and sneaker-cleaning store the Soap Box, who says it effectively cleans and conditions most materials. Cope has tried the solution on many different materials like leather and suede, but adds that he hasn’t tried it on very expensive sneakers — like ones made from alligator or snake skin. “Not saying that it won’t work, I just choose to be very careful about what I use,” he explains. Cope adds that the solution works to scrub out stains and advises using just a small amount to do so.
Strat-approved giftable blankets
Last week, we partnered with West Elm to curate a digital shop to live on our website. Now, you’ll be able to shop over 40 of our favorites at the Strategist Shop at West Elm, from upholstered bedroom benches to easy-to-clean bamboo place mats. Everything featured in this one-stop shop has been pulled from our archive and was independently vetted, recommended, and curated by our writers and editors, including this highly giftable weighted blanket. Bearaby’s blanket is beloved by experts because it’s “open-loop-weave design is breathable and distributes weight evenly over the body, something most duvet-covered weighted blankets (cooling or not) don’t do.”
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.