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The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in January

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: 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 bought in January.

Chloe Anello, writer

$27

As a gift for friends who had babies, I started making personalized baby blankets with their kid’s names hand-embroidered on them. Well, that kind of spun out into a very low-key business, because a bunch of people started asking me to make them for their kids and friends, too. So I thought, well, why not open up an Etsy store as a fun side project? (Shameless plug: Here’s my store, which is still a work in progress.) I had been cutting fabric in a very inefficient and messy way, so I decided perhaps I should get some better tools. I bought this rotary cutter kit and wow does it make a difference. I can cut straight lines now! A miracle!

I have been grating garlic and ginger with a regular cheese grater for years, and I come dangerously close to slicing my fingers each time. After one particularly close call, I opted to buy a tool specifically intended for this task. And it’s great.

Karen Adelson, senior writer

Nearly two years into working from home, I finally invested in a laptop stand at the urging of my physical therapist, who noted how tight my hips are getting. I like that this one is wood and not a corporate-looking metal or plastic. The ladder style is neat because I can easily switch between sitting and standing by moving the two platforms into different slots. The big platform has plenty of room for my external keyboard and trackpad plus a notebook and mug. The only downside is that, at about two and a half feet wide, it’s just really, really big (“jumbo” is no exaggeration), so it does take up a lot of space. Fortunately, it’s easy to disassemble and hide out of sight when I have company.

Even with three dedicated drawers, my running wardrobe has gotten a little out of control. I thought it’d be a good idea to get an under-bed box to store my out-of-season clothes, and after much hunting, this was the nicest-looking one I found. I didn’t want plastic, and I like how this striped design looks if you peek under the bed. It holds a surprising amount — all of my shorts and tank tops with room to spare — and was relatively inexpensive.

Maxine Builder, editor

It finally got cold, and I finally bought some Heattech from Uniqlo. The turtleneck has been especially life-saving while walking the dog in sub-freezing temperatures (and I think it’ll make a great base layer for skiing and other winter sports, too).

I also grabbed this decidedly non-fashion balaclava from Backcountry to keep my face warm while walking along the wind tunnel that is Kent Avenue, right along the East River. It’s dorky, and it works. It blocks the wind, but it’s still fairly breathable.

Lauren Ro, writer

Cute, comfortable maternity jeans are, no surprise, nearly impossible to find. I recently put on my Madewell over-the-belly skinny jeans from my last pregnancy and wanted to chuck them in the trash. (They were too tight but never stayed up, and also had annoying distressing that I tolerated because there were no non-frayed styles to be found at the time.) For this pregnancy, I wanted something plain with a relaxed leg and an under-belly band. Most of the styles that met these criteria were very expensive — like $250. Then, perusing Old Navy’s website (which has since become my go-to for maternity wear), I came across these. They satisfied all my requirements and I ordered them immediately. I love the vintage wash and the stiff-yet-comfy denim and the fact that they have an under-belly band — which I find to be much more comfortable than a full panel. They’re the only real pants I wear when I go out now, and I actually feel cute in them.

My cousin got married in the California desert earlier this month, and I needed tights to wear underneath my long wrap dress. I was also in the market for a couple new bras, so I headed to Skims, where I had previously bought the Fits Everybody Scoop Neck Bra and wanted another one in a different color. I was curious about its maternity offerings and saw these footless tights. Some of the reviews were mixed on sizing, but I took a chance and went with what I normally wear. When they arrived, I was shocked by how tiny they looked (though I shouldn’t have been, given the reviews). I struggled a bit to pull them over my legs and my bump (the reviews warned me here, too), but when I finally got them up, I found that they really held me in and were quite comfortable, sculpting (they have light shaping stitching on the ass for some lift), and smoothing. I felt like my belly was supported all day and night, and thanks to their silicone waistband, they never slipped down.

Arielle Avila, junior writer

I’m trying to grow out my dyed blonde hair, but I figured it’d be fun to change up the color while I still have the ability to do so. I read about how Overtone is an inexpensive, nonpermanent, moisturizing color-depositing hair treatment, so I decided to give it a try. I didn’t have the courage to go for a cotton-candy pink or aqua blue, so I settled on a slightly subtler shade of silver. While it didn’t give me the bright pastel color I had initially hoped for, it did change my hair from a brassy, yellow-toned blonde to a much nicer, cool-toned almost gray-blonde shade after one application. I’m hoping with continued use it’ll inch my hair color closer to silver, but for now, my roots blend into my dyed hair much more seamlessly and my hair feels healthier than it has in months.

After talking to trainers about ways to help your dog adjust to the city I was convinced to swap out my dog, Maggie’s, usual training treats for these mini ones. Before, we would go on walks and it was a hassle trying to hold her while breaking up treats into smaller pieces. As the weather got colder, it became even more of a struggle to maneuver with gloves on. Now that I have these, I just reach into my treat pouch and grab a couple for Maggie to enjoy while we’re on the go. Plus, she goes nuts over them.

Jen Trolio, senior editor

I bought this diminutive wooden brush-and-dustpan set — made by Iris Hantverk, a Swedish brand known for its heritage household goods — to solve a very specific problem: sweeping up the sprinklings of ground coffee that litter the counter around my coffee grinder. It’s a mundane task I tend to ignore because it’s too small to require using the vacuum, yet not messy enough to justify wasting a paper towel (using a regular dish towel means awkwardly shaking it out over the compost bin or the sink and sometimes making more of a mess). Though the dustpan’s lip is not tapered, putting a slight limit on its usefulness if you’ve got a larger area to cover, it’s the perfect size for collecting crumbs and other dry detritus that you can sweep over the edge of a counter or dining table, right into the pan. The arched shape and nested design look sharp hanging in my kitchen, too.

Leah Muncy, deals writer

I fell down a Playboy merch rabbit hole (forgive me) last week, after including one of their tote bags in a sales roundup. Sure, Playboy invented the centerfold, but they also published a lot of top-tier journalism and fiction. My favorite item from their site is this graphic tote bag, which is made from hand-dip-dyed cotton canvas. (I was a mere click away from buying this Comme des Garçons–esque wallet, too.) While most novelty totes are tiny, I was surprised to find that this one is large enough to fit everything from groceries to workout gear.

I first tried this oolong tea at a Japanese restaurant in Chelsea and then took a trip to H Mart the next day to try to find it. It can be expensive depending on where you buy it (as much as $15 per box), but I don’t care — it’s that good. It tastes a bit like a lighter, more floral genmaicha, and it pairs well with pretty much any meal. I drink it almost every day.

Kelsie Schrader, editorial coordinator

I was due for a fresh pair of running shoes and decided to switch back to the Brooks Ghosts after spending the past eight months in Hoka Cliftons. While I did enjoy the Hokas — particularly their sleeker silhouette and not-ugly colors — they felt slightly bouncier than I’m used to, and I found myself (and my weak knees) missing the more rigid support of the Ghosts. So, back to Brooks I go.

I bought one of each of these studs for my sister in Kansas City, who likes earrings as much as I do and embraces Missouri’s cowtown roots far more than I do. We included the horseshoe studs in a recent micro-sale post, and as of right now they’re still marked down to $12, so yeehaw to it.

Emma Wartzman, kitchen and dining writer

Since I was last here recording my favorite purchases of the month for you, I moved apartments. As a result, I’ve bought … quite a bit of new stuff recently. I’ll save you the bigger-ticket items that are highly specific to my space (like a kitchen island from IKEA that took me five hours to put together and, finally, a new area rug for my living room) and instead talk about a couple of smaller things that have been making me very happy. First up are these tiny condiment bowls from Fortessa Tableware Solutions. They come in a pack of six, are stackable, and so far have served me incredibly well. I’ve used them to hold soy sauce when I order sushi and ponzu or other dipping sauces when I steam dumplings. I’ve filled them with mustard for chicken cutlets, spicy mayo for roasted potatoes, jam for a cheese platter, and sesame seeds for sprinkling on … a lot of different things.

Another Food52 find, this one was a long time coming. I’ve wanted a spoon rest for ages and finally got around to buying this deep-blue ceramic one from Casafina. It’s a bit larger than many others I’ve seen, which I think is an especially nice feature, beyond the pretty color. It rinses off and wipes up easily, and most importantly, it does its job: Keeping my dirty utensils in one place, off my counters, as I cook. (Bonus: Did I also unnecessarily buy the matching paper towel holder because I simply couldn’t help myself? Yes, yes I did.)

Jenna Milliner-Waddell, writer

My brother gave me a very generous H&M gift card for Christmas, so that’s where I did most of my spending this month. On a whim, I ordered these pants in a now sold-out chocolate brown. H&M pants have historically not fit me well, but since I wasn’t spending real money I decided to go for it — and I’m glad I did, because they’re perfect. They’re twill pants, so they’re not exactly jeans, but still have enough structure to look like them. They have some stretch as well, so they go on super easy (a relief, since most of my pants feel really tight at the moment). They also have a flattering high waist and they don’t gap egregiously bad in the back. I’ll be stalking the website and my local store for this stone color in my size because I definitely need more pairs.

A few months ago I was gifted a Dermaflash and I’m obsessed. I love feeling how smooth my skin feels afterward and it’s a nice addition to my monthly at-home facials. It was time to re-up on blades, so I did that this month, too, again with a generous gift card I received over the holidays.

Chelsea Peng, senior editor

In light of the racist voice-mail that news anchor Michelle Li received earlier this month — which sparked the #VeryAsian social-media movement and an eponymous foundation — I’ve never been prouder to be the #AggressivelyAsian product of Taiwanese immigrants. You’ll often catch me connecting with my heritage through food at 886Taiwan Bear House, and Win Son (père et fils), but when I want to do the same at home, I turn to Yun Hai, purveyor of specialty items like fermented black beans, plum powder (Taiwanese Tajín), and this tingly chili crisp that I’m not going to compare to everyone’s unproblematic fave Lao Gan Ma. (I’ll only say it’s different.) Even though my mom called me a 傻瓜 (literally “silly melon”) upon hearing how much I paid, 1) it’s well worth it and 2) this silly melon will still be first in line when Yun Hai’s East Williamsburg storefront opens later this year.

The trouble with most tote bags is that, if you wear a fluffy coat, the straps are prone to slide down until you find yourself clutching your Macbook like a Bottega Veneta model. I had been looking for a non-droopy, nonconformist laptop bag when I spotted this guy as I was about to tuck into a charger-plate-size serving of enfrijoladas at Gordo’s Cantina. Often given as gifts to loyal customers, these Mexican nylon mercado bags have unyielding, rubbery top handles and a foldable interior that’s spacious enough to fit my computer, various pouches, and even an unplanned quart of Johny’s sublime soup from Foster Sundry. Its casual, “doing the big shop” vibe juxtaposed with a fancier ’fit suits my cut-rate Alessandro Michele aesthetic — and I like to think the rodent graphic acts as a talisman to ward off real rats.

Sanibel Chai, junior writer

Delicate jewelry that doesn’t break is such a rarity, so I was so excited to discover Jenny Sheriff. Sheriff is a jewelry designer with a boutique called Jouel in Tel Aviv, and she makes beautiful silver, 14k gold, and gold-filled pieces. This hook bangle bracelet is great for stacking, and I have one of the wire bracelets, which is almost weightless. Sheriff welcomes custom orders so if you want to riff on one of her existing pieces, she can make it happen.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to eat more in-season and fresh produce, and I fell in love with this Illuminate Farm Box. With a weekly subscription (there are also options to subscribe bi-weekly or to just buy one time), I received a selection of in-season produce, cheese, eggs, bread, and milk. Last month, the box included a mole from Mole Poblano Asunción in Brooklyn and Vista Hermosa tortillas. I love that the boxes support small farms and businesses and that you can choose from three types of milk: 2 percent, whole, and oat (if you’re dairy free you can also opt to skip milk and cheese altogether). Each box is centered on one main recipe that is developed by chefs so you don’t end up with a ton of random ingredients that you have to supplement with even more groceries. Upcoming recipes include parsnip feta gratin and squash gnocchi, so if you’re tempted I suggest checking out Illuminate’s Instagram because the delectable pictures will seal the deal.

Editor’s note: Illuminate does not deliver in NYC, but they do deliver to Northern NJ, Hoboken, and Jersey City.

Erin Schwartz, writer

This is my favorite plain black T-shirt; earlier this month, I bleach-dyed the one I’d had for a couple years for a Henry James versus Edith Wharton party, so I just bought a replacement. As a five-foot-tall person, I can get fixated on T-shirt fit — standard adult T-shirts are too long for me, and kids T-shirt sizing varies by brand — and this one hits in the perfect place, about an inch below my belly button. It’s not the highest-quality cotton, but it is substantial enough to hold its shape and not deform after a few washes.

I’d been looking for a lamp to light my dim, library-ish living room and bought this perfect bookshelf light from a store in the Netherlands via Etsy. It even kind of looks like a bookend! I found it via one of my favorite Etsy searches — “postmodern lamp,” filtered for vintage items — which is a great starting point for finding lamps that aren’t boring. (“Sottsass IKEA” also yields good results.) Although this one is sold out, here’s a collection of lamps with similar energy.

Louis Cheslaw, associate editor

My back has been very tight recently, so I used an old massage voucher to try and treat it. Sensing that I wasn’t about to book in for weekly sessions, the kind masseuse told me to go to the nearest drugstore afterward and buy a heating pad to help with the pain. It’s been pretty good so far — while it hasn’t stopped me from getting frustrating twinges, they now typically go away after 30 minutes of contact with this pad (on its highest setting).

As soon as I read about this dish rack on our site last month, I had to have it. The ingenious spout — which drains dish water directly into the sink — is incredibly satisfying and hygienic. Plus, the rack’s compact size doesn’t overwhelm my countertops, and its stainless-steel frame is rust-proof (and makes the dish rack look just as sleek my beloved Simplehuman trash can).

Dominique Pariso, writer

I popped into Big Night, Greenpoint’s new-ish dinner and party essentials store founded by former Infatuation Editorial Director Katherine Lewin. It has everything you could ever want: vintage coupe glasses, Amy Sedaris’s favorite potato chips, tinned seafood from Fishwife, and my favorite hot sauce, Zab’s. I picked up a big bottle when I was there; it has a very vinegar-y kick, and I put it on everything.

Everlane gifted me a pair of Mary Jane loafers that are truly perfect, except for the fact that they run quite narrow. I could barely squeeze my wide feet into them. So on fellow Strategist writer Ambar Pardilla’s recommendation I bought these shoe stretchers that worked like a charm. If you also have wide feet (or just hate breaking in shoes), buy this magical doodad immediately.

Ambar Pardilla, writer

I had a wake-up call over the holiday break: I can’t stand any of the iPhone alarm sounds anymore. But after scoping out the alarm-clock-scape, I must say: There aren’t many that combine aesthetics with an affordable price tag. It was this one from the Pottery Barn kids’ section that eventually won out in my search. (Too cute to resist.) The clock has a digital face that’s easy to read when I don’t have my glasses on. It connects to an app that’s easy enough to figure out. You can press the bunny ears for a night light or a light-white glow in the morning. It doesn’t have too many bells and whistles like other alarm clocks — it’s technically for kids, after all — but that’s why I like this clock so much. I just need a reminder to wake up. Now, I open my eyes to a gentle rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star,” which is a surprisingly pleasant way to start the day.

Brenley Goertzen, Strategist intern

I found Memor scrolling through my social feed and instantly fell for their mosaic-inspired products. I was drawn to their phone cases because they are customizable with four different color options and seven object styles — plus you can pay extra (from $10) to add a personal horoscope and a monogram. I opted for the Sand Custom Phone Case and decided on the “Conch” style for its neutral shards and ethereal seashells. (If you’d prefer, the company also lets you send in your own specific objects to incorporate into a case; it’s called the Bespoke Case.) Every Memor case is made to order, but mine arrived ahead of schedule. If you’re apt to drop your phone on hard surfaces like I am, this case is durable and securely hugs my iPhone. And it is seriously mirror-selfie-worthy.

On my last trip to Sephora, I was hoping to finally get my hands on the infamous Dior Lip Glow Oil that went viral on TikTok last year. So it should have been no surprise (sigh) that it’s still sold out almost everywhere. Standing at the display, I reached for what appeared to be the next-best thing — a lip balm. The packaging boasted about the same natural ingredients and long-wearing finish as other Dior Lip Glow products, and I was easily persuaded. This stuff is no joke. The Addict Lip Glow intensely hydrates my chapped winter lips while also boosting their pigmentation with one swipe. I chose the Rosewood color, a sheer pink, but I’ll be investing in more shades ASAP.

Liza Corsillo, senior writer

I have been wanting a pair of Rudy Jude jeans for years, but they are expensive and I always worried about buying the wrong size. I don’t know what finally pushed me over the edge this month, beyond seeing more and more friends in them on Instagram, but I am happy to report that they are worth the hype (and the money). I am not exaggerating when I say that in all of my adult life no jeans have fit me this well or made me look so effortlessly cute and put together. They have zero waist gap, hug my hips and butt ever so slightly, and make everything I own look cooler. It took buying two pairs to find my size despite the detailed measurements posted on the website. But that’s partially because I shudder when I think back on years of not fitting into confusingly sized jeans, and because even the first pair I bought that were clearly too big looked great on me. Now that I know my size — I am five-foot-seven, 140 pounds, and a size 3 — I am seriously considering buying a few back-up pairs just in case the brand ever stops making this style.

I used to hate salad spinners. But after buying this one I realized that I just hated shitty salad spinners. The ones I’ve used in the past were cheap and hard to clean, whereas this one is sturdy and simple, without any nooks or crannies for mold and bacteria to grow. I love that the bowl part can be used as an actual bowl and that it conveniently doubles as salad storage in the fridge.

Daniel Varghese, associate editor

There are books all over my apartment. Most are arranged on buckling shelves, and some are tucked away in my coffee table, but an annoying number of them are stacked in piles all over the floor. To corral them onto more slightly less accommodating surfaces — the top of the table next to my record player, the alcove of my bathroom, the tops of other bookshelves — I needed bookends. I considered getting the cool acrylic and metal ones we’ve written about, but all were more expensive than I wanted to spend. Then I figured, if I could get my pots, sheet pans, and utensils from kitchen-supply stores, I should be able to get book supplies from … a library store? Turns out, that exists! And its bookends slap! They’re just as colorful as the ones from Tortuga, but much cheaper. Plus, the Library Store’s bookends are called Bear Hug bookends. Adorable!

After two years of using my work laptop for decidedly non-work activities — forgive me, Vox Media IT for the hours of DnD podcasts I have watched in my free time — I purchased the first new computer I’ve owned in almost a decade. I knew I was going to buy something from Apple, but spent a long time really thinking about which computer to get. Would I buy another laptop, even though I already have one issued by my job? Would I buy a beefy iPad, even though they aren’t really good for the main thing I want to do with a computer, which is write? Ultimately, I decided to get the Mac Mini, which connects perfectly with the monitor and keyboard I already own. It’s super fast and extremely silent, even when I’m ignoring hundreds of open tabs in Chrome in favor of watching a video essay on Victorious.

Kitty Guo, junior writer

Okay, full disclosure: I technically didn’t buy this mirror in January — I’d secured it when artist Ada Chen opened preorders back in December. But I finally received it last week, and it was absolutely worth the wait. The design is inspired by the legend of Chang’E, the Chinese moon goddess, which is who I feel like every time I look into this mirror. It’s very lightweight and not at all unwieldy, so it was a breeze to hang and won’t be a hassle to pack up if I ever decide to move. I positioned it across from my window and the way it reflects the changing light is nothing short of heartbreaking.

I’d been using a gritty exfoliating scrub to wash my face, until I went for a facial and the esthetician told me I was committing a mortal sin and ruining my skin for all eternity. (Just kidding, but she might as well have said that, considering her horrified reaction.) Instead she suggested this Ultra Gentle Cleanser from Face Reality, and though I’m normally skeptical of salon products, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to add something a little less harsh to my skin-care rotation. The gel formula is very silky and moisturizing, lathers up wonderfully, and washes makeup away with little to no scrubbing. I hate to admit it, but I think she had a point — my skin feels much less tight and dry now.

Tembe Denton-Hurst, writer

I bought lots of workout clothing this month. I recommitted to going to the gym last year but have doubled down my efforts for 2022 — so naturally, some new gear was in order. One of my favorite things from my haul is this quilted half-zip from Old Navy. I was in desperate need of a warm-yet-light jacket for my morning walks to the gym and my heavy wool coats were way too bulky. Plus they didn’t exactly scream “I’ve clearly been doing this for a while.” I’ve been wearing my new half-zip for the past two weeks and am considering a second in the unfortunate event that Old Navy discontinues this one. It’s super toasty so I can get away with just it and a long sleeve on really frigid mornings. It also covers my butt so my legs don’t get really cold, and it’s convenient for holding all of my odds and ends because there’s a roomy pouch pocket in the front and then two fleece-lined pockets on the side. All of which have zips, so I never have to worry about my house keys or Beats headphones slipping. I purchased it in black, which is neutral and goes with everything, but there are some fun pastel shades too.

Last year, my partner and I started a tradition of gifting our closest friends Valentines cards because, well, I love them. I got the idea because I was casually perusing Minted (I love greeting cards generally) and saw that the site had mailable classroom valentine cards. Obviously they’re designed for children, so there were plenty that would probably be best for a fourth grade class, but there were also quite a few that felt sophisticated enough for my group of friends. What’s nice is that they come in a pack of 15 and are cheaper than individual cards, so you can make everyone feel special and included without breaking the bank. Minted also includes free recipient addressing and fancy envelope designs, which saves me from trying to nicely write out everyone’s names and addresses. This year I decided on these coupon ones, which I customized and am very excited for everyone to receive.

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